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Learning the weapons trade

Weapons Engineering Officer Lieutenant George Sinclair says anyone with a “problem-solving mindset” should consider an engineering role in the New Zealand Defence Force.

15 April, 2024

LT Sinclair is on exchange with the Royal Australian Navy, posted to Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart since July 2023.

Following an engineering course at HMAS Cerberus near Melbourne, LT Sinclair is conducting his Assistant Weapons Engineering Officer (AWEO) on-job training aboard Stalwart. It’s part of his journey towards becoming a Weapons Engineering Officer in a Royal New Zealand Navy Anzac-class frigate.

“My job in Stalwart is to assist the Deputy Weapons Engineering Officer with the daily running of the Weapons Engineering Department, which involves 25 people who maintain the weapons, communications and sensor systems,” he says.

LT Sinclair was born in Hamilton and raised in Whakatāne, attending Trident High School. His Navy journey started in 2009, joining as an Electronics Technician and changing to Weapons Technician when he was promoted to Leading Hand. He retrained as an officer, commissioning from the ranks in 2020.

“I wasn’t interested in a student loan, so I decided to join the Navy. I thought I would join for five years, but that changed once I experienced the work and travel. I found myself embedded in a community of good people from all over New Zealand.”

Highlights of this exchange has been the strong friendships he has formed through his training journey.

A large grey ship being led by a tug just off a coastline.

Royal Australian Navy Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart

A man in a Navy uniform and a cap, stands on a wharf with his arms crossed in front of large grey ships in the background.

LT George Sinclair stands in front of Royal Australian Navy's Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ship, HMAS Stalwart

“It’s good to be back in the sea lanes. I’ve been part of a regional presence deployment to Asia, visiting interesting places like Japan and South Korea. It’s amazing how peaceful a large city like Fukuoka can be when there are minimal cars on the road and people actually wait for the pedestrian lights to go green before crossing the road.”

He says it’s fun learning about a new Navy, and interesting to see the comparisons.

“As a Weapons Engineer it’s like visiting the toy store as a kid with no money to buy anything. The Royal Australian Navy are playing with some of the next generation weapon systems, due to their close relationship with the United States. These weapons are not fitted to our vessels back home.

“But in other ways we’re very similar. Both Navies are going through a personnel regeneration period, due to retention issues over the last decade. When listening to the reasons, it’s like listening to my mates back home.

“One other thing is no moustaches or long hair is permitted for personnel in the Royal Australian Navy. Naturally I am the recipient of many compliments and praise for my moustache!”

His goals are to represent the Royal New Zealand Navy well and achieve his Weapons Engineering Certificate of Competency to a high standard.

“Then I’ll return to New Zealand in October, and hopefully post to one of the frigates for my Deputy Weapons Engineering Officer time.”