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Hawke’s Bay Navy hydrographer dives into new Navy boarding team role

A Hawke’s Bay sailor is thriving as a team member with the Royal New Zealand Navy’s (RNZN) specialist boarding team.

15 May, 2024

Able Hydrographic Systems Operator (AHSO) Mya Wells was recently part of an eight-person Deployable Boarding Team (DBT) on board the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy vessel HMS Tamar.

The team supported the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries in the boarding of 23 fishing vessels in Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone, checking for illegal activity.

AHSO Wells, who’s from Ōtāne, attended Central Hawke’s Bay College in Waipukurau. She says she studied hard at school but couldn’t find an academic avenue she liked.

One day, she came across a Defence Force brochure; “I thought, that looks different from everyday normal life.”

She joined the RNZN in 2022, opting for the Hydrography trade. RNZN hydrographers are assigned to the littoral warfare unit HMNZS Matataua, mapping the seabed and coastlines as well as searching for mines and underwater explosives using remotely operated devices.

“Hydrography is a really good trade and I would recommend it to anyone, but the cool thing is you don’t have to do just that,” AHSO Wells said.

“We get to do Seamanship Combat Specialist training, we can do dive courses. So when the option came up to join the Deployable Boarding Team I thought, that sounds like a challenge – I’ll try it out.”

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Able Hydrographic Systems Operator Mya Wells is part of the RNZN’s Deployable Boarding Team which recently partnered up with the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in Fiji

The DBT concept was created last year as a specialist capability, providing a ready-to-go ‘fly in, fly out’ team capable of supporting an RNZN ship on operation or on vessels of partner nations.

Team members have to pass a boarding team course, which covers communications, pistol and shotgun training, close-quarter combat, first aid, room-clearing and ladder drills.

AHSO Wells enjoyed the six-week deployment with HMS Tamar.

“You feel like you have a purpose. There’s a reason we do this, and I’m here to do it.

“There’s a bit of excitement every time we got into a sea boat. We had two teams of four, Alpha and Bravo, and we would usually have a quote of the day as part of the routine; things like ‘train hard, fight easy’ and ‘success comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it’.

“There’s great morale and that’s what makes a good team, when you get to know each other and know what each team member needs.”

Throughout the day, Alpha team would swap with Bravo team for boardings.

“There were some days when we would crack out quite a few boardings, which were very compliant - there was no hassle with the fishing crews,” she said.

“They were really interested in where we were from and were excited to see people – they’d been at sea for a while.”

When they weren’t on boarding duties, there were ongoing Alpha versus Bravo competitions to foster a positive team dynamic.

They organised physical training sessions for the whole ship’s benefit, and took part in ship duties.

“It was a really great crew and they looked after us really well. We’d pitch in with seamanship, bridge watches and just help out where we could.”

Now back to her regular hydrographic duties, AHSO Wells has just been accepted to go on an exchange with the Royal Australian Navy.

Her advice to others who can’t find their passion while at school - don’t worry.

“That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you can’t find your passion elsewhere, even if that means going through some trial and error.

“Always take every opportunity you are given, not only for a good experience, but because you are more than capable, even when you don’t think you are.”