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Air Force technician returns to the Far North to inspire students

Communications technician Leela Brown is looking forward to “passing it forward” when she travels to her home region to promote the technology side of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

11 April, 2024

Aircraftman Brown is part of a roadshow travelling to Northland schools to run interactive Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) activities for students. The team will be teaching basic theory of flight and fostering interest in aviation STEM.

It’s the first time the team has gone to Northland, with visits to schools in Kawakawa, Kerikeri and Kaikohe.

Aircraftman Brown comes from even further north at Taipa, Doubtless Bay, where she attended Mangonui Primary and Kaitaia College.

She joined the Air Force as an 18-year-old in 2022 as a Communication and Information Systems Mechanic.

“I had been thinking about joining the Air Force all through high school,” she said.

“I got the opportunity to be part of a School to Skies wāhine camp as a Year 13 student, spending a week at RNZAF Base Auckland. I’ve experienced first-hand how helpful the School to Skies programme can be for students.”

School to Skies is a technology and aviation camp open to females in Year 13 who are engaged in STEM studies.

“I was unsure about study at university and joining the Air Force gave me the opportunity to get paid to learn, as well as the option to pick up study in the future funded through Defence.

“My experience on School to Skies further confirmed that the Air Force was something that I wanted to pursue.”

As well as running roadshow activities, Aircraftman Brown will talk about her own experiences of the Air Force and her pathway from school in Kaitaia to joining.

“This is a chance for me to pass it forward, to go back home and help open students’ eyes to the options available, like it was once done for me.”

Students are likely to relate to her biggest worry at that time – being so far away from family.

“When you’re from the Far North, getting home to visit does provide some challenges.

“However, you make it work and there are various things provided by Defence that help, including travel warrants and military flights provided on some weekends.”

What she enjoys the most about the RNZAF is the people.

“I have been so fortunate to meet and make so many friends. The Defence Force really does become your family.

“Another thing that is great about being in the Air Force is all the clubs and activities that you can be a part of outside of your trade.”

Her advice to Year 13 students would be to go for it.

“Just make the leap. It may be scary to start with but everything will fall into place.”