Wing Commander Russell Mardon joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as a pilot at the age of nineteen. In as many years since, he has demonstrated inspirational leadership in New Zealand and abroad in testing combat environments, undertaking tours of duty and commanding numerous RNZAF helicopter detachments on operations in Antarctica, Bougainville, Bosnia, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.
As the Commanding Officer of No.3 Squadron at RNZAF Base Ohakea, he was responsible for 150 people, a fleet of 19 helicopters and a transition to new helicopter types. For his command efforts in leading the New Zealand helicopter detachment in Timor Leste in 2002, Russell was made an Additional Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM), his award citing his 'determination, excellent judgement and superb leadership'.
In 2004 he was the Task Group Air Component Commander in the Solomon Islands, responsible for commanding New Zealand and international air assets and combat support units. Infectious exuberance and enthusiasm are hallmarks of this leader who relentlessly invests considerable personal energy in ensuring a positive morale in his teams, often in austere combat environments.
He is also a driving force behind the Ohakea Mopedathon, bringing teams together using 50cc motorbikes in a day-long endurance event. His leadership in the Ohakea "You've Got Talent" programme helped bring the concept to fruition, involving the whole of Base Ohakea and raising nearly $5000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Russell is also a great believer in growing one’s own successor and making time to be a coach and mentor.
Good leadership is about being able to build effective teams, which includes focusing on each individual’s strengths, then providing them with roles that allow them to use those strengths to shine. ”