July 2011, by LS Pamela Vant
Recently I was attached posted for six months with the Royal New Zealand Navy. I was posted to the ANZAC frigate HMNZS Te Kaha. It was a unique and rewarding experience as well as challenging at times. While deployed on Te Kaha I sailed to Waitangi in the Bay of Island, New Zealand to help celebrate Waitangi Days which is the annual celebration of the signing of the treaty of Waitangi at the historic flag pole. The treaty is considered the founding document of New Zealand and was signed by the British and the Maori’s, the native people of New Zealand, on Feb. 6, 1840 which began the increased colonization and settling of New Zealand by the Europeans (Pakeha).
After Waitangi days we sailed for three and a half months participating in EXERCISE TRIDENT STORM with the Royal Australian Navy off the coast of Western Australia and EXERCISE BERSAMA SHIELD with the British, Malaysian, Singapore and Australian navies in the South China Sea. The RNZ Navy often exercises with these navies as part of a historic five nation’s alliance formed after the Second World War to protect South East Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore. During this deployment I further participated in many of the ship’s activities like circuit training on the flight deck, netball tournament in Singapore, Anzac day, a sports day in Malaysia and the crossing the line ceremony. The RNZ Navy is a young navy and has a real zest for fitness. Their PTI instructor (Physical Training Instructor is an actual trade in their navy) conducts flight deck circuit training twice a day at sea which the ships company can participate in when scheduling allows. I also participated in a netball tournament between the ships in Singapore. It was a unique and interesting opportunity to learn a sport not played in Canada.
The ANZAC ceremony was also very interesting ANZAC day is the Australian and New Zealanders equivalent to our Remembrance Day in Canada and occurs on April 25 every year commemorating and honouring the major losses of the Australian and New Zealand Army corps (ANZACS) who fought at Gallipoli during the First World War. Similar to Canada’s Remembrance Day, ANZAC day has expanded to remember and honor all veterans who served and died in military operations for their countries. Unlike Canada’s Remembrance Day, however, ANZAC day services are conducted at dawn.
Another interesting evolution I participated in was the five nations sports day on a tropical Malaysian island near the end of EXERCISE BERSAMA SHIELD. All ships went to anchor and spent the day ashore competing against each other in rugby, basketball, volleyball, soccer and tug of war. It was a great break and a chance to meet the sailors from the other ships who we had been exercising with. All warships at anchor made for a scenic and formidable force on the horizon. The Royal New Zealand Navy’s crossing the line ceremony was fun and full of youthful exuberance. I suspect it is far more hard core version then Canada’s but I can’t compare them because I haven’t crossed the line with the Royal Canadian Navy.
The RNZ Navy, although similar to Canada’s in many respects, also has many differences. The RNZ is a very young navy in comparison and many sailors are only in the navy for a few transitional years where as Canada has an older and more career-oriented navy. The ANZAC frigates themselves aren’t designed to sustain long durations at sea due to food storage space and the lack of garbage treatment thus the longest duration is approximately two weeks at sea before returning to land gash and resupply. Some very useful and innovative practices used by the RNZ included the use of small movable temperature gauges by the boundary sentries allowing a fire boundary sentry to monitor the bulkheads actual temperature and cool down as needed. Another great idea practiced by the RNZ Navy is that before every deployment each mess is called up to the hanger to review weapons handling drills on their standard rifle, the equivalent to our C7. The first week at sea all the messes were again called up to fire the rifles thus ensuring that every member of the ship’s company was familiar and able to safely handle and fire the rifles in case a force protection need should arise. Curiously though, the RNZ Navy isn’t half as vigilant as Canada when it comes to force protection and they don’t train for bomb threats or NBCD. The RNZ does however train for toxic gas due to the proximity of the sewage treatment plants to the mess decks and occasional issues with the toxic gases produced by the sewage. Thus their EEBDs are far more advanced then Canada’s as they are used frequently to escape toxic gas filled compartments. Their EEBDs are reusable consisting of small refillable oxygen bottles carried in a bag that slings over your shoulder and a similar but more durable reusable hood. Another interesting, fun and worthwhile practice conducted before sailing was that each mess had to practice escaping from their mess as a team to the upper decks with their flash gear on backwards and the lights turned off, thus ensuring that each mess could work well as a team in the complete darkness should such an emergency arise.