By Patrick Gower
New Zealand war hero Willie Apiata has quit the Defence Force and has already found a new job.
The Victoria Cross winner has left the SAS with the Government saying he's just about to turn 40 and is looking for a change - rather than anything to do with the morale in the armed forces.
3 News understands Cpl Apiata is off to teach adventure skills to South Auckland young people at the High Wire Trust, not far from his old SAS base in Papakura.
Prime Minister John Key was sad to see him go.
“It’s a great loss to the SAS, but these guys are in a very high pressure environment. He's given a big part of his career to the army and to the SAS, so we wish him all the very best.”
Cpl Apiata won the Victoria Cross for carrying a gravely wounded comrade across an Afghanistan battlefield, under fire, to safety.
But now the SAS' time in Afghanistan is up - it has no further combat role there.
And while some have suggested that could be a reason for the elite troops to quit, the Prime Minister says it's just reality.
“Obviously we don't make decisions on deployments overseas on the basis of staff retention.”
Staff retention is an issue in the armed forces as a pay freeze has affected morale. Cpl Apiata is one of over 900 members to quit the military in the past two years.
However Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says after 23 years in the army, Cpl Apiata may just feel it is time for a change.
“He's been in the SAS for 10 years. I would assume he's just decided it's time to do something else with his life - he's going to be 40 in a couple of months.”
And the High Wire Trust is very pleased about the corporal’s arrival.
A Beehive source has told 3 News that Cpl Apiata is one of five members of the SAS who have left since the end of its mission in Afghanistan was signalled. With about 100 members believed to be in the unit, capability should not be affected.