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School to Seas Success

Interested in the School to Seas programme? Ensign Renee Woodward talks about her experience three years ago.

31 January, 2024

Find out about the upcoming School to Seas camp.

Renee Woodward was pretty certain she wanted to join the Royal New Zealand Navy. But what ‘sealed the deal’ was her taking part in the Navy’s School to Seas programme in 2020.

Today, Ensign Woodward is a Warfare Officer who graduated from Junior Officer Common Training in June 2022. She is posted to HMNZS Canterbury and is looking forward to her first overseas deployment at the end of March.

“It had been pretty much solid for me that joining the Navy was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I’m from Rangiora, North Canterbury and had been to Defence Careers events in Christchurch.  I hadn’t been anywhere near Devonport Naval Base. School to Seas was an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and there were a few other young women that joined the Navy as well out of it.”

She has some familiarity with HMNZS Canterbury, because she and the rest of the School to Seas students bunked in the ship for the week-long course.

“That was really fun,” she says. “We were in four Embarked Forces cabins, with 12 bunks to a cabin. A highlight for me were the Squad Leaders, these Lieutenants were always around, getting to know us, answered any questions we had about the Navy and shared their personal experiences and adventures.”

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School to Seas 2023

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School to Seas 2023

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School to Seas 2023

What impressed her was seeing the bond the Navy personnel had with each other. “They got stuck in, they had this comradeship and were always helping each other out. They were incredibly approachable and go-getting.”

Other highlights included tours of other ships, rides on seaboats, eating at the base galley, building Remotely Operated Vehicles and testing them in the fleet pool, and training on the Navigation School’s bridge simulator.

“One great thing was a Lieutenant who taught us how to service a car, theytook us through everything from filling up the wiper fluid to changing the oil, a learning experience for sure.

As an officer, she says she is now experiencing exactly the comradeship she admired when she was doing School to Seas. “100 percent. It’s a very welcoming wardroom on HMNZS Canterbury, super social, where you can hang out, share good yarns and beat the more senior members of the wardroom at card games and the board game uckers.”

HMNZS Canterbury has come out of a period of maintenance and Ensign Woodward is amped up for the year ahead. “I’m a bit nervous about what’s to come, but we’re going overseas and the ship has a pretty good line-up of activities this year. I’m looking forward to finally getting into it.

“If you’re not sure what you are going to do after Year 12 or 13, and are studying any of the maths and sciences, then you should definitely come and see what School to Seas and the RNZN is all about!”

Apply for the 2024 School to Seas camp