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February 2009 - Benefit of military training outweighs costs for Customs

The New Zealand Customs Service is proud to support staff involved in part time military service, and this month Customs Managers Stu Lumsden and Marilyn Walters received bronze awards for their continuing support of employee Mason Tolerton's part time naval career.

The award was presented at a Regional Employer Support Awards breakfast at HMNZS Pegasus in Christchurch. Mason nominated his Customs Service employers for the award, saying they had gone over and above their responsibilities when it came to allowing him time off for military service. "Giving military leave is no easier for government departments than it is for private industry, but we agree that the benefit of military training to staff like Mason outweighs the costs" said Stu Lumsden, on receiving the award.

The Navy was what originally got Mason interested in career with the New Zealand Customs Service. "In my early Navy career I used to drive the RHIB (motorised dinghy) for boarding when we worked with the Ministry of Fisheries and Customs. This gave me a pretty good look at how Customs worked."

Since then Mason's officer training has given him some transferable skills. He was selected to attend the first New Zealand-run Combined Defence Intelligence and Analysis Course, and he has completed a variety of New Zealand Defence Force planning and briefing courses. Being an officer in the Navy Reserve and working for the Customs service has had many benefits for Mason. He says his dual career has allowed him to contribute to New Zealand in two very different, but compatible, ways.

"At the risk of sounding like a recruiting advertisement, I do get the best of both worlds. I get to have a great job here in Christchurch and I also get to go away to sea without missing out on watching my young family grow up. The operational navy stuff is great but doing the ANZAC day and remembrance services as the local representative of the NZDF is a real privilege." Mason has been in the Naval Reserve for over eight years. While at University he would spend over 100 days a year at sea. Since commissioning as an officer in his post-graduate year at university Mason has completed courses in navigation and watch-keeping allowing him to go away as executive officer or second in
command on one of the Navy's inshore patrol craft.

Most recently Mason spent a month at sea watch-keeping on HMNZS Te Kaha, one of the navy’s two ANZAC class frigates, as she was testing some new
weapons systems, working with the Ministry of Fisheries, and preparing for Exercise Maru. Mason is looking forward to the arrival of the navy's new multi-agency focused protector fleet of off-shore and inshore patrol vessels, and aspires to be
command qualified as a part time captain of one of the new inshore patrol craft.
So would he ever consider deploying to Afghanistan as some of his shipmates had recently done?

“I’d jump at the opportunity, but getting leave from the home front could be much harder than the work front! he says.

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