April 2009 - Deployment in Deli - POMed Richdale
I decided I would join the Navy when I was 11, after attending a careers day at school. In January 2001 (after pestering the recruiting officer for six years) I started Basic Common Training at the age of 17. Once I had completed the first part of my training I continued on to do my Junior Medical Course at the Joint Services Health School in Burnham (JSHS). After being in the Navy for only three months it was a bit of a challenge working with the Army whose protocols are often so different to ours, but after three months I was proud to officially be a Junior Medical Assistant.
I was then posted back to the Navy Hospital where I spent a year continuing my training, working in all areas of the hospital including dental, physio, x-ray, treatment room, theatre, training department and reception. I was lucky enough to be posted to HMNZS Te Kaha for a month, getting a taste of life at sea. On board I was promoted to Able Medical Assistant. I loved the sea life and couldn’t wait to have a proper posting onboard, but I was a long way off that. Once I completed my OJT, I again went down to JSHS to complete my Intermediate Medical Course. I also completed an Army exercise “Red Serpent”, which confirmed for me my personal preference for a ship to the field.
Nevertheless, after being back at the Navy Hospital for a year and a half, I was selected to go to Afghanistan as a Patrol Medic. So back down to Burnham I went for five weeks of pre-deployment training. Long days of driver training, soldiering skills, and language training were all worth it when I finally deployed to Afghanistan. I really enjoyed my time there and would love to return someday. The environment and culture are so different to anything I was expecting and intrigued me endlessly. Although driving was a challenge as the terrain is rugged and the wintry conditions made driving extremely hazardous, I enjoyed being involved in medical clinics visiting remote villages, English lessons for the locals and I was even fortunate enough to sit in on some lessons for the local trainee medical officers.
In 2005 I was once again posted back to HMNZS Te Kaha, this time getting promoted to Leading Medic. We sailed in June 2005 for a 6 month deployment visiting Singapore, Malaysia, and different ports in Australia. I loved life onboard and didn’t want the trip to end. Just when I was dreading posting off the ship I was offered the opportunity to transfer to HMNZS Endeavour in 2006. This time we travelled a little further, visiting Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia again. After spending six months away it was a refreshing change to be posted back to the Hospital. I wasn’t there for long before being selected as part of the medical team to join a US ship [USS Peleului] to be part of a humanitarian aid team, helping in PNG. I was able to experience the life on board this enormous aircraft carrier and venture ashore to assist with vaccinating in remote villages. I was also given the opportunity to work with US veterinarians and also assisted with vaccinations and de-fleaing animals. Following this I was posted back to the Navy Hospital.
I decided then that I needed a new challenge and chose to leave the Navy to go to university and study nursing, so I changed to the Naval Reserve. I was still able to work at nights at the Hospital keeping my ties with the Navy and the pay was great too. After being at university for six months there was an opportunity to deploy with the Army over the East Timor. So I took a break from Uni and here I find myself based in Dili as the Senior Medic for the current contingent in East Timor. I am enjoying my time here, although it was great to have two weeks leave too. Responsible for three LCPL Medics, my work is generally a desk job, dealing with health and environmental issues that arise within the contingent. I was, however, invited to join an Australian patrol for 10 days down to Suai in the Cova Lima district, where the NZDF was based during the ‘Battalion days’. I was able to work with an Australian Medical Officer in small villages, assisting with the co–ordination of patients in mobile clinics. In most villages I would find a group of children and teach them some fun games. This trip was a truly rewarding experience and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity. After being on patrol I arrived back just in time for Christmas which we celebrated by having some minor games such as sack races and fear factor. We are now over half way through the tour and I am looking forward to getting back to New Zealand in June. Once I get back I will continue my work with the Naval Reserve taking a slight career change into physiotherapy continuing my study at university.
Through my career I have been to many different places, have some wonderful memories and hope that I have helped to make a difference, but I can honestly say there is no place like home.