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RNZAF 85: Squadron Leader John "JV" Voice

Served 1972-2022
Fifty years ago, at the tender age of 16, Squadron Leader John ‘JV’ Voice joined the Air Force as a Boy Entrant. This year he will farewell the service after a full and varied career.

05 April, 2022

I’ve seen a lot of changes over the past 50 years. I joined because a lot of my family had served during the Confrontation in Malaysia – mostly a mixture of Army and Navy. I joined the Air Force because I liked aircraft as a youngster and built all the plastic models I could get my hands on.”

Beginning as an armourer at Base Auckland, Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Voice worked with weapons used on the P-3 Orions and spent a lot of time at the Kaipara Air Weapons Range where heavy weapons and rocket practice took place.

“I went to Wigram for three months to complete electronics training to enable maintenance of weapons release systems for weapon capable aircraft. Armourers had to be a jack-of-all trades because we had to do a bit of everything.”

After his stint in the armoury and an explosives depot, he applied for a three-year air ordnance role with No. 5 Squadron and ended up staying put for 20 years.

“There were a lot of search and rescues – when we found people it was so gratifying, but there were some where you went out and failed to find anyone at all.

“One of the worst I flew on was during the Hobart to Auckland yacht race in January 1980. One of the yachts, Smackwater Jack with four sailors on board, disappeared in heavy seas. On our first sortie below the clouds we had 100 feet between us and the crest of the waves. It was pitch black and we couldn’t see a thing. There were about four or five days searching for the yacht but it had disappeared.”

The role offered some light-hearted flights as well, such as the Christmas runs to drop care packages to the scientists stationed at Campbell Island, about 700km south of New Zealand.

“It was like being Santa. One of the Christmas requests was to deliver two kegs of beer for the scientists’ celebrations. So the crew packed them into containers and delivered them out the back door as we were flying over.

“After the first drop we could hear laughing over our radios from the people below. They described a spectacular scene of the keg falling out the bottom of the container when the parachute opened and it smashing into the water causing the beer to spray in a huge fountain. The second delivery arrived safely.”

By the end of his time with No. 5 Squadron, SQNLDR Voice had racked up 9,444.8 flying hours in the aircraft. The early 1990s saw a move to a desk job with Director of Defence Intelligence and Security at the old headquarters on Stout Street in Wellington.

“I’m still working in the operations area and work with access and tasking for the Navy’s ships and ground elements. It’s all based around intelligence requirements.”

In late 2000 SQNLDR Voice was deployed for six months to East Timor with No. 3 Squadron as the operations and intelligence officer. While there, there was a shortage of helicopter door gunners.

“So the CO pointed out I was still currently aircrew and an armourer, so I best get my flying kit sorted. So that was another role I took on over there until my deployment ended. I ended up doing 38 flying hours in the role.

“East Timor was a nice place, the locals were very friendly to us. That tends to be the case for Kiwis around the world anyway, we tend to fit in.” Deployments continued with postings to the Defence Signals Directorate in Australia for two years, with the first P-3 team to deploy to Camp Mirage in Dubai, Afghanistan, and Bahrain. 

There had been some dramatic changes in the Air Force over the past five decades, SQNLDR Voice noted.

“One of the biggest ones was when the Air Force downsized and people from across all the Air Force were made redundant. The same amount of work needed to be done but with fewer people. It was not at all well-received.

“We have a really good workforce, everyone does what they need to do to keep the planes flying and the organisation going. I’m due to release in October this year – I’m on my last hurrah.

“When I look back I think about the fun I’ve had, the people I’ve worked with and enjoying the job. If you don’t enjoy the job, you shouldn’t be there. I’ve met some amazing people.”