Navy Man to Command New Zealand’s Joint Forces
31 August 2018
In 1984, Marlborough Boys’ College student Jim Gilmour had two months to go before finishing school, and no idea what to do after that.
Inspired by a recruiter, he decided the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) would work as a short-term prospect. It would be a chance to get back to Auckland, where he was born and lived until he was 14, while he figured out what to do with his life.
This year, he will become a Rear Admiral, upon taking up the post of Commander Headquarters Joint Forces of the New Zealand Defence Force.
Commodore Gilmour is currently the Chief of Defence Strategy and Governance at Defence Headquarters in Wellington. He is a former Maritime Component Commander, former Commanding Officer of RNZN ship HMNZS Canterbury and a RNZN helicopter pilot.
As Commander Headquarters Joint Forces he will be effectively the Commander of virtually all NZDF operations and major exercises across the RNZN, New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force, domestically and internationally.
Commodore Gilmour joined the RNZN as an Ordinary Communications trainee, but was inspired to become an officer and helicopter pilot after a sea survival drill involving helicopters at Devonport Naval Base.
He was accepted for pilot training in 1990, and in five years was a Flight Commander with Naval Support Flight, flying Westland Wasps from HMNZS Waikato and Wellington during a tour in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield.
He later assumed command of Naval Support Flight, overseeing the introduction to service of the Super Seasprite Helicopter.
His move to seagoing command came from a desire to prove himself in a traditional navy role after a career in naval aviation. He was in command of HMNZS Canterbury when the ship was in Lyttelton after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, which remained for two weeks offering support to the Lyttelton community.
After Canterbury, he commanded a Combined Task Force in the Gulf of Aden, tackling piracy, and in 2016 took command of 13 ships, 10,000 personnel and 42 aircraft during Exercise Rimpac, the world’s largest maritime military exercise, in Hawaii.
Now he is proud to take up the role as head of a Joint Forces. He described his journey to this point as “an amazing ride” and said it had been the people he had worked with who had made the journey worth it.
“The Navy and the New Zealand Defence Force have taught me the most valuable lesson possible – nothing is impossible if you apply yourself,” he said.
“And, above all, believe in yourself.”