Samoan-born Kiwi airman's pandemic response, Pacific aid work recognised

An Auckland man has been named the Air Force’s airman of the year for his role in delivering aid to the Pacific during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

RNZAF's leading aircraftman Dennis Tommy. Source: Supplied

Leading aircraftman Dennis Tommy said he was honoured and humbled to receive the award.

“Recognition isn’t really what I’m after, though. I just see something that needs to be done and I do it,” Tommy said. 

Tommy organised ways his squadron and other Defence Force staff could safely operate during the pandemic and created bio-hazard cleaning packs for aircrew. 

He also played a “vital” role when his squadron was asked to deliver aid to Fiji and Vanuatu after Cyclone Harold.

Samoan-born Tommy was also recognised for playing a part in establishing the Base Auckland Pasifika Group, an initiative with a focus on Pasifika welfare and professional development.

He is also a mentor to young Pasifika in the community and to junior personnel at work. 

“It’s really important that more Pasifika people join the military because we bring a different perspective and also our culture to the work. I believe that diversity makes for a stronger military,” Tommy said. 

“I enjoy boosting the Pasifika culture in the military because there aren’t many of us, so I think it helps the Pacific people who are here.” 

Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark said the award was given to someone who made a “significant and positive contribution” to the Air Force. 

“[Tommy’s] work ethic and consistent commitment to go above and beyond is second-to-none,” he said.