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Corp Apiata VC's Comrade Speaks Of Straight Up Guy

Willy Apiata VC's Comrade Speaks Of "Straight Up Guy"

By Jon Stephenson

A straight-up guy, an outstanding soldier, and a mate you can rely on. That's how one of Willy Apiata's comrades describes the SAS trooper who last Monday was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving the life of a fellow soldier in Afghanistan.

New Zealand SAS troops on parade at the group's Papakura base - Image by Jon Stephenson.

"Mike," a former trooper who served with Apiata and knows him well said he felt a huge sense of pride when the award was announced. "It couldn't have gone to a better guy."

Everyone in the SAS was "rapt" and agreed the award was well-deserved. "If it wasn't for Willy [the soldier he rescued] would be dead."

Mike described Apiata as a simple man with a good sense of humour who enjoyed socialising with close friends. "He likes a beer with the guys, and he'll always shout."

He said the military was central to Apiata's world. "He's one of those guys that the army provides a bit of stability for, a bit of structure."

Apiata was "a bloody hard worker" and "a bloody good soldier," Mike said. "He's a real tough bugger � as strong as an ox. When we were doing the CQB [Close Quarter Battle, or unarmed combat] stuff he was one of the best.

"Because he's big and strong, you're bloody glad that you're on the same side. You know he's got the potential to be bloody lethal and aggressive, but he's quite controlled."

While Apiata was smart, he was "more the practical, hands-on guy" � an excellent diver and a crack shot.

Like his SAS comrades, Apiata would have seen his deployment to Afghanistan as an opportunity to test himself and his skills, said Mike. He was unlikely to have focused on the wider political implications of the conflict.

"As a soldier you're focused on doing your job as best you can and on staying alive. You just get on with it [although] obviously if something is morally wrong you'd question it."

Mike said Apiata was a humble man who would not welcome the attention the award has brought. "I'm just hoping the media won't be too invasive. I hope that once all the hype has died down he can get back to normal."

Promoting the New Zealand Defence Force was something Apiata might have to do, but he would want to stay in the SAS and be available for deployment to places like Afghanistan.

"I think if [Afghanistan] comes up again he'll go � or at least, he'll want to go."


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