1958 Regular Force Cadets
1959-62 Royal Military College Duntroon
1963-64 Regular Force Cadets
1964 1 Bn Depot
1965 1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR)
1966 HQ Director Borneo CPS
1967-69 Army HQ
1971-71 HQ 1 Australian Task Force, also attached, New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS), US Army, US Marines
1971-72 School of Infantry
1973-1974 1 Royal New Zealand Infrantry Regiment
1975 Malaysian Staff College
1976-79 Army HQ and Home Command
1979-1982 Commanding Officer 1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment in Dieppe Barracks Singapore.
1982-83 Director of Infantry and SAS. Army HQ
1984 Joint Services Staff College (JSSC Australia)
1984-85 Colonel Personnel Army HQ.
1985-86 Canadian National Defence College (CNDC), Kingston, Ontario.
1986-87 Commander Army Training Group Waiouru
1987-89 Commander Support Command
1989-1993 Commander Land Forces (Takapuna, Auckland).
Post Military Service Occupations.
1997- 1999 Manager Paremoremo Prison.
United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Yugoslavia Chief Feild Admin.
2001 -2017 United Nations World Food Program - Logistics Consultant
General Service Medal from Canada for Service in Afghanistan
Medal from Vietnamese Government for service
Edward Breton Bestic
In August 2019, I met with Brigadier Edward Bestic, also known as 'Bret', who shared his experiences in the Borneo Confrontation and the Vietnam War.
Brigadier Edward Breton Bestic was born on 27 February 1941 in Whangarei, Northland. He began his military career early, joining the Regular Force Cadets, a voluntary training organisation for boys in the Regular Army, in 1958 (aged 16). He was then selected for the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1959 as an Officer Cadet, where he studied for four years. He graduated with a Sword of Honour in 1962 for outstanding performance during training.
Two years later, in 1965, Bret joined the 1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR) as a platoon commander in Malaysia for the first tour in Borneo. The following year he was “cross posted within Theatre” to the RAF Operations Room at HQ Borneo Operations (“DOBOPS”) on Labuan Island near Brunei and promoted to Captain.
Returning to New Zealand in 1967, Bret was a Plans Staff Officer and an Army public-relations Officer, before being promoted to Major in the Directorate of Infantry.
In 1971, newly married, and a month after the birth of he and his wife's first child, Megan, Bret was posted to Vietnam. He dropped rank to Captain to serve in the Headquarters of the 1st Australian Task Force as an operations officer, on permanent duty. It was a busy job, but Bret said it was "quite safe" as it was in an underground bunker. The 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment arrived after four months. Bret was asked by Lieutenant Colonel Ron Gray, who commanded that battalion, to command one of his companies for a couple of months. "This was a great step forward" Bret recalled; "I was the only Kiwi who commanded an Australian Rifle Company in Vietnam."
He also spent a month with 4 Troop NZSAS as a “Second Scout” to broaden his experience of infantry operations in Vietnam, having passed an SAS Selection course in New Zealand in 1970.
Bret recalled some of the more harrowing experiences he had during his service: the uncomfortable heat of the jungle; being shot down in a helicopter while with the US marines in Vietnam and dealing with heat. "It gets quite gruesome," he said. He remembers the harsh conditions he and his comrades faced, carrying approximately 60 kilos of weight on their backs, which was mostly water and ammunition, as well as sleeping on the ground at night among the insects in the jungle and having to speak in whispers for weeks on end to avoid being heard by the enemy.
In 1971, Bret’s “tour” in Vietnam was extended by three months to spend time with the US 23rd Infantry (Americal) Division at Chi Lăng where he qualified as a sniper, he also spent time with the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang.
Bret returned to New Zealand and took up a position as the chief instructor at the School of Infantry. "I had quite a varied tour in Vietnam,” he said.
Coming home was less than welcoming, and the mood was difficult for most veterans. "My wife didn't tell anyone I was gone," he recalled. "We didn't come back as heroes." He also felt that the media reporting at the time, as well as a lack of transparency from the government as to why we were in Vietnam in the first place, contributed to the lack of a welcome for returning troops.
Bret has kept in contact with many of his fellow veterans. "You make very strong friends," he said. "It's quite a bond."
Following his service, Bret travelled extensively, working with the United Nations World Food Program as a consultant from 2001 until 2017. "I've been in a lot of war zones but no more wars," he said. His work with the UN Food Program took him to Yugoslavia, Italy Germany, Dafur, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Liberia, South Sudan, Kenya, the Philippines, Nepal, Panama, and Mongolia. He was busy during this time, but, he says, "never carried a rifle again". Bret still travels widely, and has visited or worked in more than 120 countries.
Bret was presented with a number of medals for his service, among them The New Zealand Operational Service Medal; the General Service Medal 1962; the Vietnam Medal; the New Zealand General Service Medal 1992; the New Zealand Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and bar; the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) Medal, and a South Vietnamese Campaign Medal (1960 clasp). He was also awarded a General Service Medal from Canada for Service in Afghanistan, and a medal from the government of Vietnam.
RF Cadet – Weir Class (1958). Attended Royal Military College Duntroon (1959-1962) before serving on staff at the RF Cadet School (1963-1964) and as Training Officer at 1 Battalion Depot in Burnham (1964). Platoon Commander in Malaysia and Borneo with 1RNZIR (1965-1966).Served in Vietnam in a variety of roles – Ops Officer at HQ 1ATF; Company Commander of D Coy 7RAR; patrol member with 4 Tp NZSAS; and GSO3 (Ops) at HQ 1ATF. Also spent time attached to the US 23rd Infantry (Americal) Division at Chi Lang and 1st Marine Divison at Danang, between 31 Jan 71 to 25 Feb 71 before returning to 1RNZIR, Posted on promotion to Major as CI School of Infantry in Waiouru. OC of A Coy 1RNZIR at Dieppe Barracks in Singapore (1975) before serving on the Army General Staff (1977-1978) and as Army Public Relations Officer (1979). CO of 1RNZIR in Singapore (1984) and Director of Infantry and SAS in Wellington (1985).Served at the Joint Services Staff College in Canberra (1987) and the Canadian National Defence College in Ontario (1988-1989) before returning to New Zealand as Commander Army Training Group at Waiouru (1989-1990); Commander Home Command (1990-1993); and Commander Land Forces. AWMM