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Former Army gunner switches to Navy blues with warfare officer role

Te Mihinga Rose Brock was used to being a bit of a role model in the Army Reserves.

10 July, 2024

She stood out as a wahine trained in a combat trade role, and thrived while showcasing the New Zealand Defence Force over a series of recruitment webinars.

Now, Sub Lieutenant Brock, whose family comes from the Far North’s Utakura Valley in Hokianga, wants to develop her own path as a Royal New Zealand Navy warfare officer.

“Joining the Army and then the Navy have been the greatest experiences of my life,” she says.

After finishing at Carmel College in 2019, she enrolled at the University of Auckland, undertaking a degree in criminology and history. She joined the Army Reserve Force at the end of that year.

“A family friend of mine sold the dream to me,” she said.

“I always wanted to join the military, but I wanted to study at uni first. When I heard about the Army Reserves, I jumped at the chance to join."

“I went to Waiouru to train as a gunner, then later joined the infantry. All my friends from the recruit course went that way, and the training exercises they (infantry) did seemed much more up my alley; on the range for shooting development, urban warfare drills, and so on.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic she undertook rotations at Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities while juggling full time study. She says it was a cool experience to meet and work with people from different units and services.

After university she got a full-time job at a recruiting firm, which suitably prepared her for her next posting.

“My Regimental Sergeant Major asked a few of us to recruit for our battalion, as our numbers were down. I started recruiting for 3/6 Battalion, then Army Reserves, then I got a short term Regular Force Engagement contract and ended up going to places and being a bit of a ‘poster girl’ for wāhine in a combat trade.”   

The role expanded to Sub Lieutenant Brock organising and hosting nationwide recruiting webinars and other events to encourage youth and wāhine.

“We’d get Army reservists from different trades to tell their stories, how they can balance being in the Army and being a cop, a lawyer, a nurse, or a parent.

“It was daunting at first, but very rewarding, and ended up being quite a successful endeavour. We’d have information evenings, where people would kōrero with us and ask questions.”

As a private in the Army Reserves, Sub Lieutenant Brock wanted more responsibility, and looked at commissioning as an officer.

“You know, it’s a funny story. Early on I hadn’t considered Navy, because I was terrified of the idea of being on a sinking ship. The Army was more about being rough and a bit dirty.

“My dad is a pilot and I liked the idea of aviation. So I never imagined myself being in either the Army or Navy, but I’m so glad I did!”

When considering the shift to Navy, she liked the multi-tasking roles taken up by Navy officers.

“There’s that balance of combat training but being very involved on a ship’s bridge, having that position of authority. Someone suggested being a warfare officer, and I could always pursue a career as a pilot at a later stage.”

Sub Lieutenant Brock graduated from Junior Officer Common Training at Devonport Naval Base in December.

As an officer, she likes the idea of building a rapport with her team, and being approachable if they need help or need to speak up.

“If I was able to give advice to my younger self, I would say - as clichéd as it sounds – that there’s no such thing as a closed door."

“Take every opportunity as it comes and if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to overcome the challenges you face. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”