GILLIES, Robert William
Major, Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment

New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration
Quen's Birthday Honours List 2009

New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration
New Zealand Operational Service Medal
New Zealand General Service Medal (Afghan Primary)

News Article from Issue 400 NZ Army News
Khowst-Based Officer's Work Recognised With Honour
A New Zealand Army officer who spent six months dealing with IED incidents in the Afghanistan trouble spot Khowst has had his work recognised by a Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD).
Trentham-based Major Bob Gillies served with US forces in Khowst Province near the Pakistan border from October 2007 until April 2008. He was second in command of the Counter Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) team, and his primary role was to conduct an investigation at the scene of significant IED incidents. IED attacks occurred so regularly within the three provinces which the CIED team was responsible for, they couldn’t investigate all the incidents.
He was the third New Zealander to serve in the province, the first and second being Warrant Officers Matt Dyson and Andrew True respectively.
“Matt and Andy were the pioneers of the appointment as far as the New Zealand deployment was concerned and did an excellent job. They established a very good reputation amongst the US force personnel as professional and competent operators, and that made it so much easier for me to slot in and begin work straight away.”
Khowst has been part of the US military sector for several years and has been the scene of much insurgent activity aimed at mainly coalition forces (CF). Insurgent IED methods vary in different areas of the province, and have included a large number of suicide vehicle-borne IED attacks against Afghani security force and CF convoys and bases.
Major Gillies was accompanied to incidents by a US EOD team which cleared and secured the site ready for him to investigate. He photographed and collected evidence, including DNA samples if a suicide bomber was involved, on which to base his reports.
While some of the incidents, according to Major Gillies’ DSD citation were “horrific” he says he didn’t have time to dwell on the emotional side of what he was dealing with.
“It was hard going to incidents where there were coalition soldier casualties. In one incident two young local children were killed and that was difficult too. But it’s a job and you just deal with it. It wasn’t pleasant but you had to move on to the next task.”
While he did not have to attend incidents where he knew any of the coalition forces who had been injured or killed, several of the US colleagues and friends he made during his deployment were killed while he was in-theatre or have been killed since his return to New Zealand.
Several times Major Gillies’ ground convoy was ambushed with rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.
As well as attend IED incidents Major Gillies participated in raids looking for equipment and explosives used to make IEDs, or people who were suspected of manufacturing them. He also helped train local Afghani security forces in IED awareness and conduct CIED refresher training to US forces.
His work is said to have “contributed significantly to the development of counter IED tactics, techniques and procedures, which has had a direct benefit in reducing casualties from IED incidents among both coalition force members and the local Afghani population.”
Major Gillies, now the project officer for the establishment of NZDF’s 1 NZ EOD Squadron, says the deployment was professionally rewarding.
“I learned a lot, it was a great operational experience in a field role – something you don’t get to do often as a Major. It’s always challenging to be in an environment like that, but it’s nice to know the work the New Zealanders are doing there is appreciated.”