The Defence Force says bad behaviour by a small number of its personnel does not mean it has a culture of boorishness.
An image of three young naval ratings in uniform posing with guns, LA gangsta style, appeared on a social networking site before the NZDF demanded it be taken down.
Defence communications director Commander Phil Bradshaw says that in any group of 14,000 people there will always be a small number who stray outside what is acceptable.
He does not believe the internet image is a sign of anything sinister. It indicates to him that the three were in initial training when it was taken, he says - the weapons would not have been loaded and in any case their fingers were outside the trigger guards.
While the pose was inappropriate, Commander Bradshaw says, it wasn't dangerous behaviour.
He does not wish to comment on what penalty if any the ratings will get but says people do make mistakes they can learn from.