Two former Tauranga Boys’ College classmates had no idea they were both applying for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) at the same time – and now they are taking part in the world’s largest maritime exercise together.

Sub Lieutenants Matt Barnett and Rory Butler were divisional rivals in the same officer training intake, but are now shipmates, posted to Dive Hydrographic vessel HMNZS Manawanui for international maritime exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020, near Hawaii.

Sub Lieutenant Barnett, 24, a warfare officer and Manawanui’s Operations Officer, said he got a tour of a Navy Inshore Patrol Vessel during Year 13 at school and then began to look at careers in the New Zealand Defence Force.

“Rory and I were in the same class at Tauranga Boys’ College, but neither of us knew the other was looking at the Navy until we met during our final officer selection boards.”

They both started training in 2015, in the same intake but in different divisions.

“Rory was Bellona Division and I was Royalist, which made us fierce rivals in inter-divisional competitions,” said SLT Barnett.

SLT Butler went on to achieve a four-year Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at university, which meant neither crossed paths again until their posting together on Manawanui.

As Operations Officer, SLT Barnett coordinates the day-to-day planning for the ship, as well as long-term planning. He’s often found on Manawanui’s bridge as an Officer of the Watch and as a mentor for trainee warfare officers.

“In a not-so-average day, I’d be on the bridge, manoeuvring the ship to combat an air, surface or sub-surface threat. Or I could be on a seaboat as part of an armed party ready to board a vessel of interest.”

He said he was looking forward to RIMPAC 2020.

“It’s about putting skills I’ve learnt over the past five years into practise. We’re operating with multiple nations in an international warfare exercise, which is pretty cool. Some of these are nations we don’t normally work with, which means you do need to think ahead and have a solid plan.”

SLT Butler, Manawanui’s Assistant Engineering Officer, said he had always wanted to be an engineer.

“One of the deciding factors in joining the RNZN was the Navy’s Tangaroa Scheme, which covers your tertiary fees and provides you a salary while you are at university.”

His daytime routine on Manawanui sees him in the engineering spaces, working with the marine technicians.

“This allows me to get involved in the more ‘hands on’ work which is a good way to learn.”

SLT Butler combines that with plenty of book work, working towards his Marine Engineering Qualification and Harbour Watchkeeping Certificate.

“My primary role is to learn as much as I can during my time on Manawanui and keeping working to get qualified.”

The Defence Force had a lot to offer those who liked diverse working days, SLT Butler said.

“Constantly learning new things, while challenging, is rewarding. Most days there is something new or interesting and being part of an organisation that offers this is a highlight.”

SLT Barnett agreed.

“You learn skills that others will never experience, as well as getting opportunities to travel. You make a lot of new friends in a strong culture of comradeship.”

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