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Pass your drivers licence the military way

With Defence Driving Training School (DDTS) at the wheel, students are transformed into confident and competent military drivers through the Vehicle Licensing Operators course.

23 April, 2024

The high tempo and hands on 45-day training takes people who may only be starting on a Class One Restricted all the way to a Class Two Full. While mainly supporting the New Zealand Army Combat Driver trade, DDTS takes students from all three services.

Section IC Sergeant Stu Whitehouse says that safety is the unit’s number one priority, not just for the students but for everyone on the road.

“DDTS has been running this course for over 20 years, so it has been fine-tuned it to reduce the pressure for students and make it the best learning experience,” Sergeant Whitehouse said.

“Once they started to appreciate the skill set they had built, then the nerves went away.”

Private Madeleine Johnson joined the NZ Army in October last year but coming from a farming background, the switch from tractors to Unimog’s felt ‘more natural’ then some of her peers.

“It was easier than I thought it was going to be because the way they taught us meant everything just clicked into place,” Private Johnson said.

“It’s a large team environment, so everyone works hard to keep each other up to speed.”


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The course starts with driver training around Burnham camp to get everyone on the same level before moving onto more challenging environments.

“We are lucky to have our own bespoke driver training circuit with everything we need to teach right here in Burnham. It provides a challenging introductory environment while being safe,” said Sergeant Whitehouse.

To make sure the students are well prepared for any situation, the course ends with a trip to the Tekapo Military Training Area, moving through various terrain including rolling hills and rocky ground.

“It fine tunes their off-road driving skills while building on the skills they have learnt from the previous month and a half of training.”

This was the first time Private Johnson had been to South Canterbury and was amazed to drive around the lakes and scenery.

“You just wouldn’t get these opportunities in civilian life, it was amazing. This trade never gets boring,” said Private Johnson.

Along with the driver training, students are also taught how to maintain the vehicles to an operational standard -checking oils and fluids, tyre pressure and changing light bulbs.

Having finished this course, Private Johnson will move onto the Junior Driver Course in Linton, which teaches students how to drive military vehicles in a warfare environment, like completing tactical manoeuvres.