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Wellington sailor continues family naval tradition

It was almost inevitable that Shannon Williams was going to join the Royal New Zealand Navy.

11 January, 2022

With a father, two cousins, an uncle and two grandfathers who have all served or are currently serving in the Navy, following in family footsteps was an obvious career path for someone looking for a role that combined adventure with diversity.

Midshipman Williams, 23, graduated on December 18 after 22 weeks of Junior Officer Common Training (JOCT) at Devonport Naval Base. 

Born in Sydney, while her father Commodore Mat Williams was posted there, she was educated at Wellington Girls College and studied Science at Victoria University with a Postgraduate Certificate and Masters in Antarctic Science. But while she enjoyed the study, the academia route wasn’t going to fulfil her greater purpose.

“I love the environment and science and I love the fact that the Navy facilitates partnerships with government agencies like Department of Conservation and GNS Science. This offered the best of all worlds to me.”

Her five-and-a-half-month JOCT 21/2 course started in July, barely a month before the COVID-19 (Delta) lockdown took effect.

“That was super challenging not seeing my family for that length of time,” she said. “But it made us a stronger group. We got through it just by being there for each other. I genuinely call my JOCT group my second family now.”

Following her graduation, Midshipman Williams has been posted to HMNZS Canterbury for two months before starting her Basic Officer of the Watch course.

The ‘Bravos’ course covers bridge watch keeping and navigation which she was particularly looking forward to.

As a Warfare Officer, she’ll be at the forefront of command. Warfare Officers work on the ship’s bridge, control the ship’s manoeuvring, are responsible for the safe passage and navigation of the ship at sea, and manage the bridge staff. 

She recognised it was early days in her career but she was excited about what she had already achieved and the opportunities on the horizon.

“What I’ve learnt so far is how I can grow as a leader and an individual and understand what is unique about myself and what I can bring to the Navy.”

Her advice to others thinking about a career in the services was typically buoyant.

“Of course it’s scary – but life is too short to be stagnant. You only have one, so use it to do the most exciting things you can, while getting paid to do them.”