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Finding that niche trade

Started in one trade but think you’re a better fit in something else?
The Defence Force helps personnel find their niche.

30 April, 2023

From Army medic to Navy medic to Marine Technician, Gemma Townshend is an example of personnel being helped to find the niche that suits them best.

Able Marine Technician (Electrical) (AMT(L)) Townshend, HMNZS Aotearoa, knew she wasn’t happy as a medic. It came to a head while posted to HMNZS Otago four years ago, but she admits she had never really settled in the trade in 10 years of service.

“I remember talking to one of my corporals during medic training, and how they would tell me it would get way better. But it still didn’t suit me. I like working with people and as a medic on a small ship, it’s just me.”

AMT(L) Townshend wasn’t ready to simply leave the services. She talked to her Divisional Officer, the Executive Officer of HMNZS Otago, about the issue. She had worked with the engineers in Otago and had really enjoyed it. “He knew I’d be good in another role, and he wrote up the minute for me to change trades.”

It’s quite a shift, particularly when it takes about two years to qualify as a medic. But it’s worked out well. The medic trade was accommodating, and she says people were pleased she was staying in the Navy. She felt supported in the move.

“I love being a marine technician. There’s lot of mates and you’re always learning something new. I didn’t want to work in a trade where I wouldn’t be challenged.”

She completed her trade training in April last year, and then cleared her task book while posted to HMNZS Aotearoa during the ship’s deployment to South East Asia. She officially became an AMT(L) – dropping a rank - while the ship was in Korea.

Joining the Army in 2012, her service change from Army to Navy came about in 2018 after a posting to HMNZS Canterbury as an army medic. “Medics can go anywhere,” she says. “I made the change to Navy because I wanted to be in Auckland with family. And I could see it was easier to get promoted in the Navy and travel to interesting places.”

Her advice to others thinking about making a change is to talk to their supervisor. “Ask them to set up a tour of duty with other trades to find out what it’s like. That’s what I did, and it’s available to people to do.”