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Whangamata sailor’s overseas adventure

Meet Able Seaman Combat Specialist Tayla Taupaki, back from an Indo-Pacific deployment aboard HMNZS Aotearoa.

13 January, 2024

There’s a lot of celebration when a ship returns after months at sea. On December 8 sustainment vessel HMNZS Aotearoa and frigate HMNZS Te Mana were welcomed back to Devonport Naval Base, with family and friends waiting at the wharf.

Among Aotearoa’s crew was Able Seaman Combat Specialist Tayla Taupaki, 20, from Whangamata. She joined the Royal New Zealand Navy last year.

“Throughout high school I always wanted to have a career that involved being full-on, travelling the world and helping people any way I can. With having a few whānau members that have served in the Navy and hearing their stories, it was one of the many reasons I decided to join.”

As a Seamanship Combat Specialist on board HMNZS Aotearoa, one of her biggest jobs was supporting Replenish-At-Sea (RAS) activities with other ships during military exercises, when those ships needed fuel.

“It’s a big task that involves all SCS and other members of the crew. As the Navy has only one tanker ship, it was a good opportunity to be on this deployment and gain some experience.”

She says one of the highlights was finally meeting up with Te Mana on their way to Viet Nam and doing a refuelling with them.

“Since both ships are close together when doing a RAS it was easy to spot some of my friends and be able to wave at them. It was a cool experience to do this with them as both ships had been away from their whanau and friends so seeing some familiar faces was exciting.”

She enjoys the variety of opportunities in the Navy, including sport. “This year I played for the RNZN Women’s Basketball team versus the NZ Air Force and Army. This was a very fun experience as I was able to meet new people all throughout the Defence Force and share our stories.

“I would tell anyone that is thinking of joining the Navy is just give it a go. There is so many opportunities you can experience in the Navy that you can’t get anywhere else. From sports to travelling around the world to meeting the same like-minded people.”