5 Nov 2013

Defence personnel recognised for gallantry

9:04 pm on 5 November 2013

Two Defence Force personnel have been recognised for their gallantry while serving in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Leon Smith.

Lance Corporal Leon Smith. Photo: NZ DEFENCE FORCE

Lance Corporal Leon Smith, who was being honoured posthumously, and Air Force Squadron Leader Ben Pryor received the New Zealand Gallantry Medal at an investiture ceremony at Government House on Tuesday morning.

Lance Corporal Smith was recognised for his actions when his SAS unit responded to an insurgent attack in the Afghan capital in 2011.

During the attack in Kabul he came to the aid of the mortally wounded Corporal Doug Grant.

Lance Corporal Smith was killed in action a month later. His decoration was received by members of his family.

Ben Pryor.

Ben Pryor. Photo: SUPPLIED

Air Force Squadron Leader Ben Pryor's honour is for his actions as a helicopter pilot while seconded to the Royal Air Force in Afghanistan last year.

He conducted an emergency evacuation of a soldier who was shot in the neck. Despite coming under heavy fire, he kept his helicopter on the ground until the wounded soldier was loaded onto the aircraft.

Vice-Chief Major General Tim Keating said on Tuesday that both men put their lives on the line and it's appropriate their bravery is rewarded.

He says he likes to think the awards are important to New Zealanders, as well as the Defence Force.