I wanted to be a P.E. teacher, I loved sport. I was meant to go to the states on a basketball scholarship. Unfortunately, that fell through when September 9/11 happened, it meant I couldn’t get my visa in time. It was an amazing opportunity and I had poured all my time and energy into getting selected, but it also meant I missed out on a lot of school and didn’t achieve university entrance. I had to do year 13 twice.
The application process was lengthy, but it was worth it when I got through to the selection board. The job interview lasted a whole week. It was the hardest thing I have ever done! We got up early every morning to do our EMAs - early morning activities - which would usually consist of a long run. After that came the physical testing which lasted all day. We got pushed to our absolute limits. They wanted to see if we could cope under extreme pressure. The psychology assessments were stressful and I wondered what exactly they wanted to know or what they thought of me. I decided to be myself. If I put on a facade, they would get the wrong idea about who I was. That was in January 2007. In May that year, I was accepted to the airforce as a Physical Training Instructor.
The testing didn’t stop there, though. I had to train for another six months. It was unreal. Sure, I had a degree and the background knowledge, but it was nothing compared to the training. It was extremely physical. We all tried to eat as much as we possibly could but everyone still lost a ton of weight. Every month we had fitness tests. Women had to get 11.1 on the beep test, do 30 push ups, 30 curl ups and four pull ups
I’ve had a few different roles within the defence force. As a physical training instructor, I loved getting to know people and helping them achieve their goals. The best part was seeing all these fresh, nervous teenagers develop into men and women. Sometimes it was hard drawing the line between being a friend and manager. I lived on site so the job literally became my life. I couldn’t fully relax. Little things like when we all sat down for dinner in the communal dining room at the end of the day, I still had to maintain my role. There were a lot of impressionable 17 year olds around. One evening I remember feeling awful for eating McDonalds. I could see people looking at me, I bet they were thinking, “But you’re meant to be a physical instructor and you’re eating junk food?!
I worked as an officer for two years and meanwhile I trained to become a force protection officer. I wanted to stretch myself, go higher and higher. During that time I fell pregnant and gave birth to my son, Blake. I was away from him a lot. Whenever I was on a course, he would live with my parents in Opotiki. It was hard. I missed the morning of his first birthday. I missed his second and third birthdays, too. My parents were my number one supporters. Knowing that they were loving and looking after Blake helped ease my homesickness, but it was still very hard.
There are things that I dislike about this job. I don’t like being away from my family, especially from my son. He’s still so little. He goes to Porse, which is a childcare program that people run from their own homes. There are other kids there, about three or four, so it’s almost one on one. We’ve had to move around a lot for our jobs which means Blake has experienced a few different daycares. The positive to it all is that he’s now a very social kid, he loves being around people.
I always knew I wouldn’t be able to work in the defence force forever. Cam was in the military as well, he’s just left for a new job as an avionics technician. We knew it would be too difficult for us to find two jobs in the same location, at the same time, within the same posting cycle. It’s really hard for military couples. A lot of them do long distance, or what we call ‘unaccompanied posting’. That’s when you work at a base without your family for a year, or even two. We don’t want to do that, it would be too hard on Blake.
We’ve got goals with the house, it’s taking longer than it should, but that’s the way it goes. We are trying to renovate the whole thing ourselves. I have a few ‘time out’ hobbies, mainly sewing and cake decorating. It’s so different from my job. When I tell people what I’ve made, I feel a real sense of pride. For Blake’s birthday, we had a lego party. I spent days and days planning it and getting everything perfect. I made all of the decorations, the food, and the cake. It was a lego cake and Blake loved it! I made all these little chocolate cake blocks and covered them in bright icing in all different colours. Then we made a crane out of actual lego, as if a little lego man was building this cake himself, lifting the blocks on one by one. I love crafts and I’ve always got a few projects on the go. I have a craft room where I keep all my supplies. It’s the one area of the house where I can close the door and focus on me.
Cam and I have decided we want to settle in Christchurch. His parents live here and having family around is really important to us. It’s also a place that offers good jobs and good schools. We could have gone back to Opotiki where my parents still live, but there aren’t many jobs available. It wasn’t an easy decision but we don’t regret it. We love living here and it means Blake can go to one primary school, we don’t want to have to move him around the country. I want him and our future kids to have the same, solid childhood that I had.
How do I get into this career?
If you're interested in the defence force there are a number of different career paths you can take. You could work for the Navy, the NZ Army, or the Air Force:
- Check out the defence force's career website, it's a whole website dedicated to helping you find the right pathway.
- They also have a section on women in the New Zealand defence force. There are profiles of women within the defence force and what their experience has been.
- Another idea is to call the defence force and ask if you can go in for a day or a week to see what the job is actually like. This will allow you to quickly figure out if this sort of job is for you. This is called 'informational interviewing' and there are some great online resources on how to approach this. Here's the contact form on their website to get the ball rolling.