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Mātauranga me te whakangungu

It takes a lot of skills and training to do the things we do. From medical to engineering, navigation to combat, intelligence to flying an aircraft, the range of trades in the Air Force is diverse.

Whatever role our people hold, we need them to be highly trained, because they may have to do their job in adverse conditions, at a moment’s notice. At these times, we need experts. We need our people to excel, to be the best they can be.

Our people handle some of the most advanced technologies in the world. They are provided with the training, education, tools, and equipment necessary to become fully effective in their field.

Recruit and officer training courses are conducted at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, near Blenheim. During this initial training, personnel get to grips with the ethos and values embedded in Air Force culture and become familiar with listening to details, following instructions, and learning how to work as a team. Within those teams, recruits get used to working quickly, with urgency, in order to complete tasks. They learn basic skills like weapon handling, first aid, and drill. This is all part of developing an ability to perform tasks within a unit or squadron in tough situations, under the direction of a leader, and in a team with people they can rely on.

After basic training, personnel move on to develop expertise in a chosen field. They receive specialised education through courses, on-the-job training, and sponsored tertiary study. Sponsored part-time or full-time study is available to personnel through our Voluntary Education Study Assistance (VESA) scheme. This provides financial assistance to undertake part-time study toward a Level 4 or higher qualification on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Our people can apply for this scheme after completing one year of military service.

The way we train our personnel has benefits outside the Air Force. The qualifications our personnel achieve, plus the life and employment skills gained during their career in the Air Force, are highly sought after in the civilian world. And the skills, character, and resilience that are developed in the Air Force are valuable to the private and public sectors.

Recruit Training

Introduction to Air Force life

How does a civilian transition into an airman? It starts with the basics.

New recruits may have passed the aptitude tests and have the right qualifications, but after walking into RNZAF Base Woodbourne and ‘signing on the line’, the Air Force needs to confirm that our recruits are suitable for a career in military air operations. They need to be sure about the choice they’re making as well.

Initial training is designed to take a person from civilian life to a competent and self-disciplined member of the military while confirming that person’s suitability for life in the Air Force.

For airmen, this starts with recruit training, a 12-week course that happens twice a year. Recruits are divided into two flights during the training. In a controlled environment, recruits learn to develop teamwork and support each other while under stress. They become accustomed to following orders, military discipline, moving with urgency, and they learn self-discipline – including learning how to care for and clean their uniforms. Physically, recruits become fitter and stronger and learn to bond through shared hard work.

For individuals selected to become commissioned officers in the Air Force, there is the RNZAF Officer Commissioning Course (ROC). This 26-week course is designed to prepare students with the knowledge and experience necessary for commissioned service and the beginning of a career in leadership. This course will cover various subjects including customs and protocol, command, leadership, and management, through to defence and strategic studies.

As personnel progress through recruit or officer training, they develop confidence, self-esteem, and self-respect. Drill and parade ground training become an important part of military life because they teach our people to think and work as a team and complete instructions quickly and correctly. In an emergency, this ‘muscle memory’ and ability to react quickly and without hesitation will come in handy when our people need to respond quickly to a superior’s command. It may save their life or the life of a comrade.

Both courses include the core military skills of weapons training, first aid, navigation, and lessons on military law. As part of their journey into service, everyone who joins is welcomed into Te Tūrangawaewae o Te Tauaarangi o Aotearoa, at Base Ohakea.

The training concludes with a graduation ceremony and parade in front of family and friends.