Defence Force chief Air Marshal Kevin Short has won a Rainbow Excellence Award for helping turn the organisation into a leading LGBTQI employer.
Kevin Short won the Newmarket Business Association's executive leadership award, which recognises ownership, accountability and drive from a leader towards creating a rainbow-friendly workplace.
Short said he was surprised and honoured to be given the award.
"I didn't expect it. We are relatively new on this journey to make the Defence Force more inclusive and diverse and to have this happen this year was a real surprise."
He also acknowledged that the defence force's internal, employee-led rainbow network Overwatch, had put in a huge amount of work into supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex personnel.
Overwatch nominated Air Marshal Short for the support he had shown the community.
"I can set the tone, set the conditions and help them out but the team itself did all the hard work. They are skilled, they are energetic and they want things to move."
Last year, the Defence Force was awarded a Rainbow Tick, and Short was one of the first service chiefs in the world to march in a Pride Parade, in Wellington.
Initiatives have included an NZDF presence and flypast at Auckland's Big Gay Out and the commemorative Rainbow Warriors photographic exhibit at Auckland's War Memorial Museum.
Short also backed the Squadron Leader Peter Rule Memorial Award for Inclusion, which was launched last year in honour of a gay pilot whose distinguished 20-year career was ended in 1975 because of his sexuality.
This inclusion award is now an annual fixture in the Defence Person of the Year awards.
He was proud of what the military had achieved, but it still had much more work to do, he said.
"I think things are changing, but I absolutely recognise it takes time and effort. It's a journey of many years."
He wants everyone in the Defence Force to have a rewarding career without fear of discrimination.
"Recognising and appreciating and celebrating diversity and inclusiveness is a really important part of that," he said.
He said it also included developing funded programmes that help change the culture in a positive way.
"That's something I am absolutely going to push forward."
"Today's award shows we are moving in the right direction, and I'm really pleased with that," he said.