17 November, 2022
Ordinary Maritime Trade Operator (OMTO) Macdonald is one of 24 officers and ratings undertaking the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Naval Reserve Common Training programme this year.
The course is designed to ensure reservists are trained to the same standard as their Regular Force counterparts while working around their civilian employment.
OMTO Macdonald, who teaches at Te Puke Intermediate School, was inspired to join up after her partner talked to her class about his work in the Army Reserve Force.
“They were really fascinated, and I thought of what opportunities we could provide the students. It could be something for me.”
She initially looked at joining the New Zealand Army, but decided the Navy was “way cooler”.
“I don’t know any Navy personnel. I went into this blind and I didn’t know much about the trade.”
OMTO Macdonald and her fellow ratings will train as Maritime Trade Operators (MTO) after graduating from basic training in December. MTOs are the liaison between maritime industries and the New Zealand Defence Force ashore and at sea.
Those training as officers will specialise in roles similar to their day jobs, in areas such as medical, legal and public affairs.
As part of the course, which started in February, trainees have attended 10-day residential phases staying at Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base. OMTO Macdonald takes part in online learning, and once a week heads to reserve unit HMNZS Ngapona in Tauranga for parade night.
Highlights of her experience so far included a residential phase at Whangaparāoa north of Auckland and, having never held a rifle or a Glock pistol before, she enjoyed learning how to shoot while in Christchurch for Annual Weapons Qualification.
The buzz of comradery in the Navy was also a big appeal.
“This is where I really thrive, being together with everyone. It’s quite fun, and when you get us all together you learn from civilians who already work in the Defence Force - from those who are commissioning from the ranks, to people like me who come brand new. I get to be inquisitive and ask questions and grow more.”
Fitting the training in can be tough at times for OMTO Macdonald, especially travelling to Tauranga after a school day.
“But the training overall is done over an elongated period of time, and it’s been great that the residential courses have been structured around the school holidays. I can’t take leave, so that’s been a big thing for me.”
She’s applied some of what she’s learnt in the Navy to her day job, including teaching the concept of ‘Lead Self’ to the hockey team she coaches. OMTO Macdonald explained this is about students accepting responsibility to support their own development, and growing into people who can lead others.
“We get the kids to lead a lot of things, and then come back and report that they are done and ask what happens next. We teach them that everything is done for a purpose and a reason. I’m not making them do drill just yet, but we do walk in straight lines around the school.
The ratings will take part in a Devonport passing-out parade with the officers who graduate in April.
“I don’t know where this is going to take me. But I would love to deploy and get experience serving on a ship.”
Her advice to others considering training as a reservist was to give it a go.
“It’s a group of absolute professionals, really intelligent people, and really cool stories in the mix.”