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Queenstown woman tops RNZAF recruit course

Queenstown’s Sophie Aitken has been named best all-round recruit from the latest Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) recruit course.

19 April, 2021

She graduated the 14-week recruit training at RNZAF Base Woodbourne and was awarded the Lawson Cup and the Andrea McNabb Perseverance Cup. 

Aircraftman Sophie Aitken, 21, a Helicopter Loadmaster under training, said she decided to join the RNZAF as it brought together two interests.

“I wanted to work in a challenging environment that brought together the two things I am passionate about: helping people and aviation.”

She was looking forward to the next steps of her career, which will include more courses which will qualify her for her new role.

“I’m expecting the real hard work and fun to begin now. I am very open-minded about my future.

“I am still barely touching the surface of the opportunities the RNZAF has to offer and I am just striving to take all the opportunities I can and see where they lead,” Aircraftman Aitken said.

She said she really enjoyed the practical elements of the recruit course, especially the longest day.

The longest day is for instructors to see how resilient people are under pressure over a long period of time, both physically and mentally. Longest days typically start before dawn and end at dusk.

“These exercises allow you to truly see yourself and make you push through your previously unknown barriers.” 

Aircraftman Aitken said to anyone thinking of enlisting in the New Zealand Defence Force to just go for it.

“You won’t know if you don’t try. Do your research, study, train and give yourself the best possible chance to succeed through selection,” she said.

The Lawson Cup and Warrant Officer of the Air Force coin is awarded to the best all-round recruit. 

The Andrea McNabb Perseverance Cup is awarded to the recruit who best demonstrates the ability to overcome challenges and persevere in the face of adversity.

To find out more about being a Helicopter Loadmaster in the RNZAF visit link)