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T h e P e o p le e d it i o n
He tangata, He tangata
Flying into the Unknown
Heat of the Moment
The Rising Tide
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Brothers in Arms
A Life Less Ordinary
Ed ito r Rebecca Quilliam C r e ative D i r ectio n Sergeant Sam Shepherd D es i g n & L ayo ut Matt Chan
Ph otog r aphy Sergeant Sam Shepherd Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn Corporal Chad Sharman Corporal Sean Spivey Corporal Vanessa Parker Leading Aircraftman Rachel Pugh
Printed by Bluestar Private Bag 39996, Wellington Distribution Email: email@example.com ISSN 1175–2327 Crown Copyright 2020
Pillar of Influence
Dancing through Depression
In the Fast Lane
28 Pacific Mission
32 Champion of Diversity
36 In the Deep End
38 Our History Our Future
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Nau mai, haere mai, and welcome to our first Air Force News edition for this new decade. I hope that most of you had a chance to take a well-earned break over the holiday period. To those who worked through the break – thank you to you and your families for your commitment. A number of you returned early to support Australian bushfire operations. It was expected, but nevertheless very pleasing, to see the willingness and responsiveness of our people to help out our Aussie mates in their time of need. Looking ahead to this year there will be plenty of other operations as usual – some expected and some not – here at home, in our region, and throughout the world. We will train and prepare so that we are ready. In addition, you will hear more about our major projects that are building our future.
This first edition of Air Force News for 2020 is different from what you would normally expect. We’ve called it The People Edition. We’ve pressed pause on our usual range of articles to focus purely on presenting some portraits of our people. These are all people “just doing their jobs” but their stories are anything but ordinary. They range from the operational to the very personal and provide a small snapshot of what it takes to build a great Air Force. This is who we are. Thank you for your commitment, I am proud to serve with you. Ko Te Tauaarangi Mātou We are the Air Force
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T RU E B lue Maintaining peace in the Middle East is not a task for the faint-hearted. When the opportunity for a deployment as a United Nations Observer in Israel presented itself, Flight Lieutenant Deane Wilson and Flight Lieutenant Lisa McLay took on the task, earning their highly respected blue berets. Flight Lieutenant Deane Wilson
Flight Lieutenant Lisa McLay
S e c u r i ty F o r c e s Off i c e r
Op e r at i o nal Supp o r t Off i c e r
light Lieutenant (FLTLT) Deane Wilson bore witness to a pivotal point in the Syrian conflict between the government and rebel forces in July 2018, while working as a UN Observer. The role monitors the 1974 truce between Israel and Syria. While there is no conflict now between the countries, Syria has suffered devastating destruction from a civil war that has raged since 2011, provoking a humanitarian crisis. “We were sitting in our observation post about 100m from the area of separation and the civil war was happening right over the area of separation,” FLTLT Wilson said. As he was watching, Syrian Arab Armed Forces began a major offensive against the rebel groups and ISIS held areas. “Over two to three weeks we watched the civil war start to ramp up in that area. Syrian and Russian forces utilised heavy gunfire, artillery, rockets, missiles and aircraft drops. “Day after day and night after night, the assault continued; there was just a big dust cloud in front of us. Fortunately most of the rebel groups surrendered, which prevented a lot of possible destruction and loss of life in the area. “Some of my colleagues had deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, and they said even in those countries, they had never seen anything like that before. You’re watching a war happen in front of your eyes.”
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orking as a UN Observer confirms how lucky we have it in New Zealand, Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Lisa McLay says.
It had always been her dream to work with the United Nations and feel like she had contributed to a greater need in the world. Also poised near the Israel/Syrian border, FLTLT McLay watched as Syrian civilians tried to live a normal life with a civil war raging around them. “They were still out there during the day playing football and having jokes – you could hear them laughing. But you can see the damaged buildings they are in and every second day they are shielding themselves from mortar attacks.” The Syrian border is littered with buried landmines, but local shepherds still herd their sheep there, FLTLT McLay said. “One day, one of the shepherds stood on a landmine and his leg was blown off. Because he was Syrian, it was a struggle to get the Israelis to take him to hospital. But they eventually did a few hours later. “Then we heard the propaganda from the Syrian side saying that Israel, with the help of the UN had kidnapped a Syrian shepherd. Seeing the politics at work was shocking, when it was really all about this guy’s life,” she said. “Working with the UN is challenging and there’s a really large amount of bureaucracy, but I still recommend people apply for postings there, just for the experience.”
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Flying into the Unknown Flight Lieutenant Nicole Brooke Pilot
“We weren’t sure what we would get done, but it ended up being a really successful deployment. The NH90 really proved its worth. We only needed a few good weather windows to get to maximum efficiency.”
t 700km south of New Zealand, Campbell Island is the furthest south NH90 helicopters have been flown and Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Nicole Brooke said the job came with some challenges. An NH90 and its crew were embarked on HMNZS Canterbury for about three weeks, sailing to Auckland and Campbell Islands, in the subantarctic ocean, for Department of Conservation (DOC) and MetService staff to carry out essential work. “The main challenge when we were flying agency staff from the ship to the islands was the wind. Getting the right combination of sea-state and wind for us to fly off the ship’s deck was quite a challenge.
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It was a harsh environment, which was good because it was good training for us and we learnt what to do pretty fast,” FLTLT Brooke said. “They were definitely the most extreme landings we’ve ever done. It was the biggest sea swell I’d ever experienced.” Dealing with local sea lion population was another unique experience FLTLT Brooke had encountered. “They were either on your landing spot or they’re chasing the DOC or Army personnel on the ground as you’re coming in for the approach – which provided quite a bit of entertainment. They were just everywhere.”
Working with outside agencies, the Defence Technology Agency, the Navy and Army made the deployment the best FLTLT Brooke had ever taken part in. It was also a highlight to interact with DOC’s dogs on the ship, she said. “Everyone’s morale was super high, just chilling out on the deck with the dogs sailing down south.” The team flew asbestos off Campbell Island and had to work out how to fly corrugated iron onto it, FLTLT Brooke said. “From a piloting perspective, it was dynamic flying around the island and to and from the ship, but it was cool to see all the agencies work together.”
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Pa sequaecto volla sequae eossuntiis sime voloreptati rem qui doloreh endantis doloriant ea nimi, ut ut faccatus.
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Heat of the moment Sergeant Hayden Kinzett F IR E F IGHT E R
Over the past 15 years Base Auckland firefighter Sergeant Hayden Kinzett has deployed to dozens of emergencies. But the worst, by far, struck close to home and he saw it coming.
t hit out of the blue. This is the weird thing that really sticks with me – we were standing at the fire station and it got really cold, so I went inside to grab a jersey and then came back out and all I could see across the airfield was a big moving wall of wind and debris. It passed across in front of us and we got the call about getting out of there.” About lunchtime on December 6, 2012, a tornado barrelled into Hobsonville, Auckland, killing three people and injuring seven. Victims of the destructive twister had been either working at a construction site at Hobsonville Point School or were hit by falling trees. Base Auckland gave emergency shelter to nearly 250 residents who found themselves with uninhabitable homes.
Sergeant (SGT) Hayden Kinzett had never attended a scene of such utter destruction than the one the tornado left in its wake. “We were the first emergency vehicle at the scene over at Hobsonville near the base’s married quarters. When we pulled in, it was just sheer destruction. “There were wheelie bins in trees and roofs had ripped away. It was like a bomb had gone off.”
A building at the school’s construction site had collapsed and the team’s job was to start making the area safe and investigate what had gone on with the destroyed building. “When we started getting more resources we were able to check our service people’s homes and make sure everyone in the area was okay. It was quite an effort checking each house, clearing roads and clearing hazards like powerlines out of the way to make the area accessible again,” SGT Kinzett said. When it was over, he felt a sense of relief there wasn’t a higher casualty count. SGT Kinzett was also called for duty during the country’s worst forest fire in decades in the Tasman District’s Pigeon Valley in February last year. “Just on the sheer scale of the damage, I’d never been to anything that big,” he said. The flames roared across 2,335ha of tinder dry land, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 residents from their homes. “It was hard and rewarding work – you got dirty and smelly and got stuck in with the job, but at the end of the day even though you were tired, you felt like you made some sort of difference, or you’d achieved what you needed to achieve for the day.”
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High Flyer Flying Officer Angie Kim l o g i s t i c s o ff i c e r
“I thought, if I’m going to work my butt off for someone or an organisation, I need to find a place that has values that match mine.”
lying Officer (FGOFF) Angie Kim joined the Air Force after realising her career in marketing offered low career satisfaction. Just four years since enlisting, the 32-year-old is now at Joint Force Headquarters providing logistics support to operations and missions – and the young leader’s career is only set for greater heights. “I was working in the corporate world for a good six or seven years when I had a lightbulb moment that the industry and the company I was working for, their values and my own didn’t align,” she said. “What really drew me to the Air Force, aside from all the exciting things that we get to do, is that our values align and the prospect of working for New Zealand really hit the mark for me.” Growing up in the United States’ Windy City, Chicago, FGOFF Kim came out to New Zealand 18 years ago on holiday with her parents. They fell in love with the country and emigrated. Her fast track up the Air Force career ladder was a mix of knowing what she wanted out of the organisation, knowing how she could make a meaningful contribution and “a little bit of luck” when it came to postings.
Starting as an Air Movements officer, FGOFF Kim said she chose the logistics branch because of her background in business. “I thought it would be quite a good alignment in terms of what I can offer rather than going into a trade where I had little to no experience in.” She applied to head Base Auckland’s fuel section and because she felt up for the challenge of leading a section. Over the past four years, one of the highlights included building and dispatching aircraft pallets of emergency kits for a Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response event in Tonga, which had been smashed by Tropical Cyclone Gita in 2018. “Even though I was working long hours, those days were the more rewarding experiences, because that’s basically why I joined up,” FGOFF Kim said. Her goal is to motivate people to look at the Air Force as a viable career, “to change their minds and inspire them to join”. “Joining the military was the best decision I have made in my life and there are absolutely no regrets about it.”
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Rising Tide Corporal Hayley Watson fl i ght s t e w a r d
Global temperatures are rising and countries are increasingly moving to tackle climate change head on. An Air Force flight steward, conscious of the emissions coming from the aircraft she works in, decided to join the fight and help create sustainable policies for the organisation.
ustainability and the Air Force don’t really go together so I guess that’s how I started getting into it, because I’m aware how heavy the impact of aircraft is on the environment,” Corporal (CPL) Hayley Watson said.
“MPI said as long as there was no food on items that could be recycled, that was fine. So that was a big change in policy going from everything needing to be incinerated from an international flight to a lot of items able to be recycled.”
She started researching the subject and was inspired by work already being taken on by Base Auckland’s Sustainability Committee.
The scheme has been going for nearly a year, she said. A difference is being made, but there is still work to go to convince everyone of its value.
“When I first started flying we were using plastic cups for cold drinks and paper cups for hot drinks. They scrapped that altogether a few years ago and started using compostable paper for everything. Since then a colleague and I have been working on getting a recycling scheme implemented, which is a big thing and it’s really awesome to see that being taken on board.”
“I think people are starting to wake up to it and I think social media is a huge influencer of that.”
CPL Watson and some colleagues started working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) creating a recycling programme for international flights.
“We’re still in the phase of convincing people climate change is real. You look at what Greta Thunberg has been doing, which is amazing, but still you see people sharing her posts mocking her strikes.”
Ultimately CPL Watson would like to see zero waste as a policy across the Defence Force. “Hopefully we can make enough changes that minimise the effects the aircraft have on the environment. “The Auckland Sustainability Committee has a full operation of intent and zero waste is a big thing for us. I would also like people to think about what they can do in their own work space to make a difference, in all camps and bases.”
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Brothers in Arms Flight Lieutenant Joel Wiapo L O G IS T ICS O F F ICER
Flight Sergeant Leo Wiapo P H Y SIC A L F I T N ESS I N S T R U C T OR
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Growing up in the Far North with a father who worked away for long stretches and a formidable mother who home-schooled her four sons, the Wiapo brothers were drawn to the Air Force. Why the Air Force?
What appeals about military life?
Leo: After finishing school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Mum gave me some military pamphlets and the Air Force appealed the most. My nearly 20 year career has seen deployments with Security Forces, becoming a Physical Training Instructor and leading the PT school, before shifting tack and working in career management in Wellington.
Leo: We both like structure, pathway and development opportunities. When I joined the military, I really started challenging myself and my confidence started to grow due to opportunities to test myself and being surrounded by mentors and leaders.
Joel: I was home-schooled during my primary years, but when I was intermediate-aged I was sent to Dilworth boarding school in Auckland. Leo was at Whenuapai and I’d stay with him at the base, so I got quite a bit of exposure to the organisation. I’d go to Air Force basketball and volleyball training. I thought it was really cool – like boarding school but for an adult.
Your mum sounds like a bit of a force in your lives Leo: When you’re younger your mum is just that voice in the back of your mind, but it turns out all the advice she’s given me over the years has been right. She’s amazing. She did such a good job home schooling me that when I did a trial at Intermediate I was put up a year. Joel: Growing up on a farm, dad in and out of the picture, home-schooling all four of us and just making it work. She gave up her career to teach us in a way that fitted with her principles. When I applied to go to Dilworth, they didn’t think my academics would be good enough, but mum was a hard taskmaster and I found I knew a lot of what they were teaching already.
Joel: The same for me. Also, since I’ve had a family I look at the time I can have with my kids and the support I get to enjoy their milestones is pretty amazing.
Is there any sibling rivalry between you both? Leo: Yeah, more in sport than anything because Joel plays similar sports to me. When Joel joined and I was finding my own value in the team, I had to compete directly with him. We actually had to have some honest conversations around sport. It was a case of putting our egos aside. I’m really proud of what he has achieved and to watch him grow in his career. Joel: We were quite competitive growing up as well, with all four of us. We played against each other a lot and we realised we weren’t working as well together as we could have been and Leo has got all this knowledge that I could have drawn on, but there was this weird competitiveness. But since we had a good chat about it, we’ve been much better.
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Wingman’s Legacy Wing Commander Tim Costley Pilot
Ten years ago the Air Force was shattered with the deaths of three airmen within four months. Those tragedies led Wing Commander Tim Costley to create the Missing Wingman Trust.
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“The Trust is something that all the Air Force can get behind. The best stuff it has done has been when other people have taken the helm. That’s been the mark of its success – other people wanting to take on the work as well.”
etween September 2009 and January 2010, Aircraftman Blake Hudson, Flight Sergeant Andy Forster and Squadron Leader Nick Cree tragically died. The three deaths within such a short time frame were the catalyst for Wing Commander (WGCDR) Tim Costley to make a difference for the people left behind. He had just deployed to Afghanistan when Nick Cree died, and the loss of his friend hit him hard, as they had spent their career flying together. “We knew each other well and had done for a long time. Both our wives were pregnant at the same time and his boy was born just a couple of months after our girl and here we were, four months after his baby was born, and Nick had died really tragically. “I wondered who would put his son through university and what about Blake and Andy’s families?” The Missing Wingman Trust was born and over 10 years it has helped dozens of families. Donations filter through from all sorts of sources, WGCDR Costley said. One airman fundraised for the Trust by climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, others drove tuk tuks across India, and at Dining Ins at Base Woodbourne an empty place is set for the missing wingman and a collection takes place at the end of the night.
“We get donations from all the bases regularly – every bit makes a difference,” he said. How did the name come about? “There’s the Missing Wingman formation where an aircraft would peel off, representing the lost airman. This is a Trust for when your Wingman has gone missing or in need of help,” WGCDR Costley said. The help offered is covered in six categories and one of its real strengths is that those categories are so broad it means every Air Force family has access to help if they need it, he said. The most heart-wrenching circumstance for the Trust, in his view, was when a Leading Aircraftman had a stillborn baby. Money was tight and she and her partner had been unable to raise the funds to buy their little girl a headstone, he said. “We found out about this about 18 months after it happened. I said, ‘just send me the bill’. Imagine the pain and grief of going through something like that and then more than a year later still to not have anywhere to go to remember her. “I am proud of the Trust, but I always think, maybe we can do more – there’s always ambition to do more. The proudest bits are seeing what the Trust has been able to do for families and seeing other people pick up the work and run with it.”
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A Life Less Ordinary Wing Commander Shauna Graham l o g i s t i c s O F F ICER
“I didn’t think about it at the time, I thought ‘God help anybody who thinks I can’t do it’.” Wing Commander Shauna Graham has never shied away from her Air Force duty. So when she was offered a long-term deployment to Singapore after having a baby only six-months earlier, she and her new son set off on their adventure together.
deployed there for three years on my own, which now seems a little daunting,” Wing Commander (WGCDR) Shauna Graham said. The Logistics Officer took on the challenge of coming to grips with being a new mother to Ollie and re-shaping how logistics support was provided from the unit in Singapore. The task would have been impossible without her “Army of family” who travelled to Singapore nearly a dozen times to look after Ollie when she needed to deploy away or work on major activities, including coordinating the search for the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. “Often I had short notice of a tasking to support an aircraft or a ship operating in the area, so I could be away from home for a few days or weeks and my family would literally get on a flight and be in Singapore the next day to look after Ollie so I could go and do my job.” At the end of the deployment, WGCDR Graham was awarded a Chief of Navy Commendation for establishing a new framework to deliver maritime logistics in South East Asia – “so that was really encouraging”. After a couple of years back in New Zealand, WGCDR Graham and Ollie packed their bags again and travelled to Brunei so she could study at the senior command staff course.
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“Brunei was fantastic and a really great life experience for us both. Ollie was at a great international school and it was a unique development opportunity that I genuinely couldn’t get in any other organisation.” The Islamic nation had implemented Sharia law a few years earlier, she said. “It was interesting as a senior female officer to be able to share operational experience, be engaged in robust discussions and exchange ideas, and also to be a mother and settle us into the culture and community and to challenge a lot of opinions of what a woman should do. “We’ve both built networks and developed friendships with people from all over the world, which have shaped our approach to taking on new challenges and enjoying the life experience along the way.” Now back in New Zealand, the Grahams have settled at Base Ohakea. “Ollie is going to a local school and I’m a Trustee on the school board and we’re invested in the development of Ohakea and the broader Manawatu community. “Hopefully we’ll see the delivery of the P-8s to Ohakea during our time here and I’ll ensure the logistics support will be well organised and ready for their arrival. I predict we’ll get itchy feet again and perhaps there will be another opportunity. That’s what I love about the Air Force, just getting to live a life out of the ordinary.”
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Pillar of Influence Squadron Leader Rebecca ‘George’ Magdalinos E N G I N EER
“I accepted the nomination, but I felt entirely awkward about the affair.”
parking a passion in young people for science and technology is what drives Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Rebecca “George” Magdalinos. Putting her passion into practice, in her role at the Air Force as well as in her spare time, earned the Auckland-based engineer a nomination in the Women of Influence Awards last year – although she would rather the light wasn’t shining so brightly in her direction. SQNLDR Magdalinos is the creator of School to Skies, a week-long event for Year 12 and 13 females, and Operation Tangata Kanorau, which inspires younger children into learning about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. “Even though the programmes wouldn’t necessarily exist if it wasn’t for me, the magic is in the delivery and I don’t own the delivery - that’s all of us. “I thought the award nomination was really good to lift the profile of the organisation in circles we don’t necessarily operate in and I thought it was really good in a role modelling perspective, so I sucked it up and there you go.” Both programmes have been extraordinarily successful. The Operation Tangata Kanorau initiative has worked with more than 32,000 primary children since April 2018. Of the young women who attended the School to Skies programme, 10% have had offers of service awarded, 18% are in the recruiting pipeline and 22% registered as prospects.
“When you look at School to Skies it was 10 years in the making. It’s a bold initiative, which we think is going to work.” SQNLDR Magdalinos’ next challenge is to attend Staff Course to study Air Force specific research into the nature of the work around bringing diversity into the service. If that wasn’t enough, in her spare time, SQNLDR Magdalinos works to create opportunities in South Auckland connecting everybody who works in aviation, including the Air Force , Air New Zealand, Cadet Forces and anyone who has a business around Ardmore and who provides aviation STEMbased opportunities for young people. She is also interested in programmes tailor-made for Māori groups that takes into account their culture and learning styles when teaching about building planes and engines. There were also communities dealing with inequality of educational outcomes, directly related to poverty. “The problem is I have no business trying inspire kids to get into STEM subjects and industries if they are not staying in school, because they haven’t eaten or they don’t have shoes, and yet I can’t spend the tax-payer dollar on that because that’s not our job, so that’s what I do in my spare time. “That’s the kind of thing that drives me and it’s all about weaving together that network of networks that supports our young people.”
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Dancing through Depression Corporal Bob Hela A V IO N ICS T EC H N ICI A N
“I share my experiences and I offer tools to help people who have gone through the same sort of thing as me. Although I still have a lot to learn, there’s still things that people can learn from me and I like to offer that.”
relationship breakup and major surgery that incapacitated Corporal (CPL) Bob Hela during crucial study, triggered a spiral into depression that lasted a year. He sought help and discovered a passion for dance, which changed his life and inspired him to help others struggling with their mental health. Just before Christmas 2011 CPL Hela was halfway through his aviation technician training. Then his girlfriend broke up with him and just weeks later he underwent surgery that had him bedridden for a month. “It hit me in three different angles – I couldn’t walk so I was suffering physically, I was suffering emotionally because of the breakup and I was suffering mentally because of the pressures of the course.
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“It got to a point in the third week after my surgery that I wanted to give up on things and it started to worry me, I was scared for myself, so I went and saw the padre and asked to see the psychologist,” CPL Hela said. He received support from the base and was able to graduate his course. But while his classmates were celebrating, he was not able to feel the same joy. Near the end of that difficult year, CPL Hela discovered Latin dancing. “I fell in love with the dance and I dedicated myself to it – I danced six nights a week, I joined teams and I ended up being chosen to be part of the national competition, which we won. I was then chosen to represent New Zealand to go to the World Salsa Summit in Miami, Florida, in February 2014.”
The commitment to dancing sparked a journey to the end of his depression. “It gave me the opportunity to be more mindful and be self-aware – because that’s what you do in dancing, when you are dancing you let go of the past, you exist in the moment and in the music. “To me that was a very therapeutic moment, whenever I danced. At the same time in the dancing scene you meet a lot of people, I now have new friends and I started going out again after isolating myself from the world.” Another relationship breakdown in 2015 prompted symptoms of a return of depression, but CPL Hela recognised the signs and sought help early.
He also began practising meditation, which added to improvements in his mental health. Since then, CPL Hela has been a main player in the Air Force’s mentoring programme and has become an ambassador for Blue Light, a charity that works in partnership with police to deliver underprivileged youth programmes and activities. Now CPL Hela is in a happy and loving relationship and is running salsa classes with his partner. “Together we are sharing our love for dance with other people.”
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Team Player Leading Aircraftman Hayley Hutana l o g i s t i c s S P ECI A L IS T
“Sport takes up a lot of weekends throughout the year but that’s what I enjoy - getting to travel and play alongside a lot of my friends. It’s like a family.”
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ouch rugby, volleyball, basketball, cricket and football are all sports Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Hayley Hutana plays and enjoys. But rugby, especially rugby sevens, is her passion. Last season the talented sportswoman was chosen to play for the Tasman Makos women’s rugby team, which finished fourth in the Farah Palmer Cup championship. “I play first-five or number 10. Since playing rugby I’ve played everywhere in the backs, but my preference would be first-five or fullback. In those positions you get to read the play and can take charge of the back line.”
In 2018, LAC Hutana was named the New Zealand Defence Force Sportsperson of the Year. Her nomination said she was the “ultimate team player” and demonstrated comradeship both on and off the field. From a young age LAC Hutana could often be found kicking the ball around with her brothers. “Pretty much any sport they were playing or competing in, I wanted to be a part of that as well. So throughout primary and high school, I played the sports they played and carried that on I guess.”
Leading Aircraftman Hayley Hutana lives and breathes sport. Her natural talent has had her selected for national teams and pretty much any sport the military has on offer.
Working in the Air Force gives LAC Hutana the best of both worlds in terms of work and being able to play sport. “In my spare time and on the weekends I play a lot of sport and compete at different levels, but I can do that alongside my job as well. Getting the opportunity to travel and play within and outside the Defence Force has been absolutely amazing.” Her favourite game was playing in the winning NZDF Sevens team against Australia in 2018 for the Pacific Military Cup.
“It was a really close game, which made it that much more exciting and getting the win over our trans-Tasman rival put the icing on the cake,” she said. The achievement was mirrored last year when the team beat Australia 26–0 to win the Pacific Military Cup. “My sport keeps me busy throughout the year. In the summer and before summer it’s Sevens-focused and the middle of the year is rugby union.
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Pacific Mission Sergeant Louie Nicholas A IRCR A F T T EC H N ICI A N
“My goal is to have Pacific leadership courses integrated into our work and have training and language courses readily available – and this is especially important for command.”
hen Sergeant (SGT) Louie Nicholas joined the Air Force 14 years ago he discovered there was no specific support systems in place for RNZAF Pasifika personnel. He could see many of the Pasifika personnel needing direction and leaders lacking cultural understanding, so as a proud Pasifika person he set himself the goal of implementing more diverse Pasifika support hubs across the service. SGT Nicholas moved from Niue to New Zealand with his family when he was only four-years-old. At one stage he had 10 of his extended family all living in a small house belonging to his grandparents in Ponsonby. He later moved to South Auckland with his family and later into the Air Force. He joined the engineering trade and started a life away from his family for the first time and earning more money than he ever had before.
Looking at other young Pasifika airmen, SGT Nicholas noted many were experiencing a level of freedom and wealth they had not experienced before, and some were not making the best choices, including himself. A reputation grew of young Pasifika being associated with heavy drinking and trouble and this was the reputation SGT Nicholas wanted to break. “We generally come from strict families and give our earnings back to them. But in the Air Force, even after giving back to our parents and family there’s still a lot of money left. For a lot of us we’re very sheltered from the whole drinking scene so quite often we never really know our limits. “It’s up to us to educate our people on how to be better not just in life but in our military careers.” He also understood that the Pasifika culture wasn’t well known about in the service.
“We had no Pasifika leaders to look up to and for us this is important to have in the Island culture especially as there’s an hierarchical system in most Pasifika cultures.” The more SGT Nicholas spoke with young personnel, the more he could see a need for education, guidance and “a pathway for our people to come and talk and allow them to know that we’re here to help them”. Part of SGT Nicholas’ plan was also to teach Air Force leaders that being Pasifika doesn’t mean you’re just from Polynesia it is about understanding that Pasifika is all cultures from Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia and all the islands have different traditions. “When Pacific people join the service I want them to know we have a Pacific group that is here to support them and that we understand what they’re going through.”
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Changing Lives Peter Wilson CI V I L I A N
“They left a mark on my heart and I’m proud to have been a part of New Zealand’s assistance to East Timor.”
eter Wilson was deployed to East Timor during a violent uprising after the population voted for independence from Indonesia. During his deployment, he and some colleagues began teaching English to the local children, and in turn, they left an indelible mark on his heart. Mr Wilson is now a civilian working for the Air Force, but in 2000 he was a Flight Sergeant deployed for six months to the Southeast Asian country as part of the Iroquois maintenance team with No. 3 Squadron. He deployed for a second time in 2007 on a three-month deployment as the Detachment Engineering Officer. For the first deployment he was based at the airfield near Suai on the southern coast, which was one of many villages that had been targeted in the country’s violence and many buildings had been burned. “The one big building that I do remember was the Suai Cathedral, which was burnt out and about 200 people were killed in there. That was a pretty sobering visit.” Word came back to Mr Wilson’s unit that it would be a benefit for the local children to learn some basic English, so he and a couple of colleagues started weekly lessons on Sunday afternoons at the nearby school. “We started casually, we had no material or anything, so we just started with a blackboard and chalk.
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“I think there might have been about 15 small children sitting on the floor – they had no desks and sat on mats.” The school had been burnt out and it had no windows, but it did have a roof that had been put on by a charity organisation, he said. “But the kids seemed happy. They had basic toys. They were interested and keen to learn.” When he arrived back in New Zealand, Mr Wilson wanted to keep helping the Suai children, so he and his wife began sponsoring them. Since 2002 they have sponsored about half a dozen – each one for about five or six years through the charity ChildFund. The Wilson’s sponsorship helps the children to attend school, provide them with basic schooling supplies and special gifts for their birthdays. Spurred by feedback from Mr Wilson, members of the NZDF Military Christian Fellowship collected about six tonnes of educational supplies for the schools, flown over in a C-130 Hercules. “I really loved being part of the children’s lives for a few months and I think now those kids who were five or six are now 25. One day I would love to get back to Suai and reconnect with the families and the school.”
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“It was once a big deal to deal with ‘the gays’ in Defence, but we’re now dealing with people who are transgender, a-gender and who have more complex situations.”
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Champion of Diversity Flight Lieutenant Hemi Frires A IR W A R F A RE O F F ICER
Flight Lieutenant Hemi Frires has championed the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community in the Defence Force for a decade. And while there have been leaps and bounds in inclusivity, issues faced by the community are complex and the work is not over yet.
bout 10 years ago I had a friend battling with his sexuality and I wondered what the Defence Force had in place to support our people. I discovered they didn’t have anything specific.” Thus began the inception of OverWatch by Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Hemi Frires and a small group of others. It was established to provide peer support, guidance and advice to the Defence Force’s LGBTIQ+ community, managers and those in command positions. Over the years FLTLT Frires has taken on a number of roles in OverWatch and just recently been appointed its chair and is keen to tackle complicated issues facing the community. “OverWatch has achieved a little bit, the NZDF has achieved a lot and New Zealand society has achieved a lot as well,” he said. In 2011 the Defence Force supported its first transgender personnel who transitioned while she was in service and FLTLT Frires is supporting three others also going through the process. “We are starting to deal with slightly more complex issues in the LGBTIQ+ space, which is really cool, but a little bit more difficult. It speaks a lot to how diversity has come a long way in the organisation, but really reiterates to me the need for us to keep working in this space.
FLTLT Frires own history of coming out to his parents was, in his own words, a “non-event”. “I was worried about what everyone would think and how they would treat me and how that would change things. So I came out and I was really frustrated because I had worked myself up for a long time to finally come out and say something and everyone said, ‘yeah, okay, who cares?’. “I thought they would not be as kind and inclusive and as fair as they were. I had to reflect on why that was. I suspect that we’ve got other people in the organisation who think along those lines as well.” However, he did acknowledge his family went through a period of coming to terms with the different future waiting for FLTLT Frires than the one they had imagined. Looking to the future, FLTLT Frires said OverWatch needed to continue embedding peer support and advice to commanders to deal with the complexities that are out there. “Diversity is more than just who you’re attracted to. I think there’s more work to do in the gender-diversity space. I’m looking forward to it.”
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In the Fast Lane Sergeant Andrew McLaughlin A IR E N G I N EER
Sergeant Andrew McLaughlin has spent half of his life racing motorbikes. His passion has resulted in the 28-year-old laying claim to the title of National Champion.
bought my first bike when I was 14-years-old so I could ride it to school. I built it up and I started racing on closed circuits to get some skills and I ended up not wanting to ride on the road anymore, I just wanted to keep racing.”
Over the past three years Sergeant (SGT) Andrew McLaughlin has been competing in the National competitions, coming first in 2017 and third in 2018. This season he hopes to be on the podium again. His love of racing has him travelling the country racing in events at South Auckland, Taupo, Feilding, Christchurch and Timaru. “It’s a very seasonal sport. National’s starts in January and goes until April, then there is a lull period over winter and then I start to build up again in spring. It’s quite a commitment because I have to travel and get time off work, but the Air Force has been amazing at helping me fit in my sport around my job.
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“It’s hard to explain why I love it so much. There is a lot of adrenalin – you’re going reasonably fast and every corner is a risk, so when it pays off, it’s pretty exhilarating.” The sport can be hard work and races either “all come together or go horribly wrong”, the Auckland-based air engineer said. “I broke my wrist quite badly and now there’s a steel plate in it. I was out for about nine months after that. But to be honest, it’s a reasonably safe sport because I’m wearing huge amounts of protective gear and if you crash, you mostly just slide off the track. There are still fatalities, but they are pretty rare.” Most of SGT McLaughlin’s family are understanding about the risks involving the sport, but one set of grandparents can’t bring themselves to watch, in case something goes wrong on the track. “I suffered a few injuries so they stopped coming to the races. They definitely support me, but they just can’t watch me anymore, it’s just too stressful for them.”
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In the deep end Sergeant Carlin O’Neill A i r c r aft t e c hn i c i an
“The kinds of rescues where people are close to being lost, those are the ones that stick with you.”
ergeant (SGT) Carlin O’Neill has been a surf lifesaver for threequarters of his life and he has some tales to tell. Patrolling one of the country’s most dangerous beaches, the aircraft technician saves lives in his spare time. Every couple of weekends over summer SGT O’Neill swaps out his Air Force uniform for his surf lifesaving kit and heads to Muriwai beach, northwest of Auckland. As the patrol captain he runs the beach and tries to keep all the swimmers and surfers safe. “Muriwai is probably one of, if not the most dangerous beach in New Zealand. We’ve had the most rescues per year for the last few years.” The black-sand surfing beach is popular, but harbours a number of dangers. “There are the rips, massive surf, currents everywhere and undertows.
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There are big rocks at the end and a lot of people get swept around them, so we have quite a few rescues there,” he said. Growing up in Mount Maunganui, SGT O’Neill began surf lifesaving when he was 12. While the surf wasn’t so big on the East Coast, there were still plenty of swimmers who found themselves in trouble in the ocean. “I think the biggest day we had at the Mount was 50 rescues. One day, when I was about 16 and training, a couple of kayakers paddled from Pilot Bay around the Mount – without knowing what the surf was doing. “They got around the Mount and were washed away by a massive set of waves. One of them made it to the beach, but we couldn’t find the other guy. So we got the IRB out and started searching for him. We found him on the rocks at the end of Leisure Island, which is about 500m away and we had to do a rock rescue.”
Another memorable rescue was at Muriwai a couple of seasons ago when a couple of kids on boogie boards were swept in a rip away from the flags. “It was huge surf, probably six to seven feet. One of our guys rescued one of the boys and I jumped in an IRB to look for the other one. When I got to him he was under the water. I think he’d given up. “We dived in and pulled him up and got him into the boat and onto the beach. Both he and his mate were resuscitated on the beach and taken to hospital. Both of them pulled through.” “Surf lifesaving has given me a lot over the years and it’s pretty much been my family forever. If we weren’t there, there would be a lot more deaths in the ocean.”
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Flight Lieutenant (Rtd) Hugh Findlater P I LOT – 19 41 –19 47
“I would like to think that my small contribution could have helped restore peace and order.”
applied for the Air Force when I was 18 and they gave me a job as a general rouseabout at Taieri airfield until I got into aircrew.
I was based in England until two months after the D-Day invasion, which I was involved in and then I went onto Communications with the unit.
The selection board in Dunedin grilled me a bit and, because I only had 18 months secondary education, they said I should be a gunner. I said: “Well I don’t want to be a gunner, I want to be a pilot”. There was one old gentleman who had a bit of a twinkle in his eye and he said: “I think we’ll give him a chance”. Small things can be a big turning point in your career and that was a major as far as I was concerned.
I was only 21 when I finally completed my tour of bombing – my heart was never in dropping bombs, but I realised that the situation was that we had to do it.
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When I got onto the continent and started doing communications work I enjoyed that because in my opinion I was doing more productive work in helping the war effort than going and dropping bombs on people.
Ryan Hay WES T B U R N SC H OO L – Y E A R 7
“When I am older I want to work for the New Zealand Air Force as an Aeronautical Engineer.”
i, my name is Ryan. I live in Rolleston and go to Westburn School.
I want to learn how to fly a helicopter so when I retire I could help fight fires with helicopters or rescue/help people that are in serious danger. I want to join the NZ Air Force because I am fascinated by aeroplanes and helicopters and how they work.
Although I don’t remember much, in 2009 my family and I were lucky enough to see the last Wigram Air show before the Airbase runway was shut down. Next year I will be joining Air Cadets in Wigram to help me learn first aid and to learn more about aeroplanes and helicopters, and their engines.
I also want to help other people that are in need like when the Kaikoura earthquake happened the NZ Air Force dropped off supplies to the people and evacuated people whose houses were destroyed.
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Air Force News is a monthly magazine that strives to inform its readers about the latest news from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It cover...
Published on Feb 17, 2020
Air Force News is a monthly magazine that strives to inform its readers about the latest news from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It cover...