Willie Apiata could still be sent to the world's troublespots
even though the war hero has quit the Defence Force.
The Victoria Cross recipient will remain an SAS reserve.
But it seems he had no choice as long-serving soldiers must do a stint in the reserves when they leave full-time service.
"Most of us of course would front up without having a reserve liability but a reserve liability is that they can call you up and you have some legal obligations," said former army chief Lou Gardiner.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has confirmed five badged members of the SAS have already left the elite group this year and Gardiner expects more to go off in search of excitement in the private sector.
"These guys are right on the edge. They're highly trained and they want to use the skills that they have, so you know it's not appealing to be sitting in Papakura camp," Gardiner said.
Apiata confirmed yesterday he would leave the Defence Force to take up a position with Auckland charity Highwire Trust which supports at risk youth.
Highwire Trust chairman Calum Penrose said Apiata was a good role model to have on the team.
"Willie is a role model for the whole country, we're just damn lucky we've got him here."
ONE News understands his decision to leave the army may have been sparked by a request for leave to spend time with this family.
In a statement, Apiata said: "This has been a decision that I have not taken lightly and it is one that has taken me many months to make. I am leaving to pursue my goals and to grow with my family.
"I am very proud of my service with the NZDF and I am very grateful for all of the support I have received from the NZSAS and the NZDF."
Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said Apiata had made his Northland iwi - Te Whanau a Apanui - proud over his courageous career and provided a role model for young people across the country.
"Willie Apiata will take his place amongst that line of great soldiers - who fought for our country, and for the notion of citizenship," said Flavell.
"His bravery earned him a Victoria Cross medal, but even more prestigious was the place he had earned in the hearts of the people on the Coast."
Apiata, 39, had been a member of the Defence Force for 23 years, spending 10 years in the elite SAS.
He was given the highest award for bravery in 2007 after rescuing a wounded comrade under fire when their patrol was attacked in Afghanistan in 2004.