Warrant Officer Pat Cooney of the New Defence Force ensured that the 2013 Anzac Day commemorations in Wellington went without a hitch. The ceremonial for State Visits and other national occasions is also his responsibility, working closely with government departments, including Parliament, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. Parades, guards of honour, and events overseas are also part of his brief, ensuring that New Zealand ceremonial is of the highest standard.
Pat's story continues below
Pat’s army career started 37 years ago when he enlisted through the recruiter in Invercargill in 1976. Although Pat lived in Elizabeth Street in Gore, while he was a day pupil at St Peter’s, he describes his background as more rural than town. His spare time was spent down by the river, or up in the Hokonuis, or at his cousins’ farm at Te Tipua. His strongest memories of his school days are that there was always something happening. It was a great environment, offering excellent options for both academic subjects and sports. He was a keen member of the Tramping Club and enjoyed some great trips, including the Milford Track and Stewart Island. His time at school was generally happy (except when waiting outside the Headmaster’s office for ‘guidance”).
Initially he thought he might join the National Parks as a track walker (working on the tracks and huts), but three of his friends, Allan Broome, Gary Borgman and Peter Finn, joined the Army Cadets and hearing about their experiences made him consider a military career instead. In this he was following a strong family tradition of military service. His uncle Pat Cooney KIA, had been a bomber pilot over Belgium and his name can be found on the local memorial and the High School Gates Memorial and his maternal uncle, Matt Hunt was awarded the Military Cross. St Peter’s College values of compassion, commitment and community have been part of Pat’s life since leaving school and they have been strongly mirrored by the Army’s motto of courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity. Joining the infantry, Pat was looking for challenges, working as part of a team and a chance to travel overseas. He came to appreciate the strong outdoor environment of sport and bush trekking he had enjoyed at school as good preparation for army life. The cold climate of Gore winters meant that undergoing training at Waiouru held no surprises weather wise.
Living near Wanganui and commuting weekly to Wellington, at weekends, Pat likes to relax at home and seeing his family. He has four daughters and 12 grandchildren. His hobbies include researching his and his wife’s family histories, target shooting and he enjoys a wide range of music.
Pat still has some family connections in the Gore district, but work and other commitments mean that he doesn’t often get the chance to visit the area now and over the years he has lost touch with many of his peers from school.
There have been many highlights in his army life – promotions and new qualifications, training new recruits and postings abroad in places like East Timor and the Sinai Peninsula. What remains a continuous highlight is the strong comradeship he enjoys from being part of a military service. He recommends this life as a great career choice for young New Zealanders, both boys and girls if they are really keen to make the most of it. It offers many skills and trades and a wide range of development opportunities both here and abroad.