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Navy offers aviation career for Palmerston North man

Focusing on the end goal kept Palmerston North’s Josh Sorensen going through the Air Force’s rigorous helicopter loadmaster course, but now he is ready to spread his wings above water – as a Navy aviator

05 July, 2021

Able Helicopter Loadmaster Sorensen, 20, recently graduated from the Helicopter Basic Course (Loadmaster) at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea, where the helicopter-equipped No. 3 Squadron is based.

He was one of two sailors among Air Force aircrew.

Able Helicopter Loadmaster Sorensen is a “direct-entry” loadmaster, a scheme introduced in 2018 that allows Navy trainees to enter aviation training directly from basic training, rather than the old system of experienced sailors changing trades.

Able Helicopter Loadmaster Sorenson’s father was a helicopter engineer in the Air Force and not long after finishing at Palmerston North Boys High School, he applied for a role as an Air Force loadmaster.

“At the review board, there was an offer to do Navy. I had no clue the Navy had loadmasters so being given that opportunity was awesome.”

He enjoyed the 15 weeks of basic training.

“It was a good experience, a good challenge, and you get to know people pretty well when you are struggling together. It taught me how to iron! Mum struggled to teach me before I left.”

In contrast, the Loadmasters’ course was tough.

“It’s meant to be six months, but it can take eight or nine months. Weather can be a factor. There’s a lot of stress, but it’s worth it. It’s a really unique job.”

Keeping an eye on the end goal kept him focused.

“You are always looking to get it done, even when you don’t feel 100 percent confident, you learn to deal with it. It gets easier when you know you are moving on to something different.”

He has another six months at Ohakea, building up his qualifications, before being posted to Auckland and the Navy’s No. 6 Squadron, which flies the Seasprite SH2-G(I) helicopter.

Navy loadmasters are part of the three-person helicopter crew. Their tasks range from winching, photography, load-lifting, in-flight refuelling and operating the Mag 58 machine gun.

“I’ve never been on a Navy ship, and I’m really excited to be doing that at some point,” he said.

His advice to others was to not be afraid to be yourself.

“The assessors can tell if you are trying to be someone you’re not. They look for people with their own personality. They look for people who are real. So be yourself, and just believe in yourself.”