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Papakura Woman Named Sailor of the Year

A/POWTR Jo Stewart with Chief of Navy Rear Admiral John Martin (left) and Warrant Officer of the Navy Steve Bourke.
A/POWTR Jo Stewart with Chief of Navy Rear Admiral John Martin (left) and Warrant Officer of the Navy Steve Bourke.

20 January 2017

Acting Petty Officer Writer (A/POWTR) Jo Stewart, of Papakura, has been named the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Sailor of the Year 2016.

The award, in its 18th year, applies to substantive junior ratings and is made only to an outstanding and deserving candidate who demonstrates the Navy’s core values of courage, comradeship and commitment.

The Warrant Officer of the Navy, Warrant Officer (WO) Steve Bourke, who presented the award to A/POWTR Stewart at the End of Year Naval Awards Ceremony in Devonport, described her as totally focused in every role she had held, and an excellent operational administrator.

“She is at all times professional and proactive – a highly committed and motivated sailor, who has always exceeded expectations,” he said.

A/POWTR Stewart, 31, has received three Commanding Officer’s Commendations and has been Sailor of the Quarter twice. The citation for her award says that “she is a true advocate of the core values of the Royal New Zealand Navy – the essence of the ideal modern sailor”.

“Her personality and workplace performance has made a significant impression on the personnel that she works with and this has over time established her as a leader . . . there is little doubt that her positive impact and potential is beginning to be fully realised,” the citation says.

A/POWTR Stewart said she was “overwhelmed” and “absolutely thrilled” to be awarded Sailor of the Year. “I was shocked … I shed a few tears, then called my parents,” she said.

She joined the Navy in 2004, having geared her entire schooling around a Navy future, but was devastated when she was medically discharged with a stress fracture after five weeks. “I thought the world was over.” She decided she was “going to go for it”, came back in 2007, and has never looked back.

As a sailor on HMNZS Canterbury, she handles the administration on board, acts as the captain’s secretary, is a RHIB coxswain, a member of the emergency medical team, team leader for duty watches, and the mess treasurer. “I just fill in for anyone, anywhere. I love it.”
She has served on five ships, with Canterbury being the latest of the 21 jobs she has held in nine years. She was part of the crew that were quickly recalled to sail to Kaikoura as part of the Defence Force’s response to the magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

“We were told, pack up, we’re sailing tonight. It was an extremely long day, but in Kaikoura there were so many thankful and humble people. I was the go-to person for them.”

She said the future was about embracing anything that comes her way, and would like to mentor young sailors. “I didn’t expect to become a firefighter, or to be driving a ship. This is a career that opens your eyes to so many possibilities.”

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