Josh Sorensen, from Palmerston North, says he needed a change of scene. His future as a Navy helicopter loadmaster will definitely deliver that.

Able Helicopter Loadmaster Sorensen, 20, along with Leading Helicopter Loadmaster Jesse Turi, graduated as a loadmaster at No. 3 Squadron RNZAF in Ohakea last month. Unlike LHLM Turi, who changed trade from a medic, AHLM Sorensen is a ‘direct-entry’ loadmaster, thanks to a scheme introduced in 2018. After more training, he will post to No. 6 Squadron in Auckland, who fly the Navy SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopters.

“After I finished at Palmerston North Boys High School, I travelled for a year and then applied for a loadmaster in the Air Force. At the review board, there was an offer to do Navy, and I had no clue the Navy had loadmasters. So being given that opportunity was awesome.”

His father had been a helicopter engineer in the Air Force before he was born, then continued the trade with civilian companies.

“I’d always considered the military. When you get to Year-13, not many know what they are going to do. I was juggling between the military and university.”

He enjoyed Basic Common Training. “I wanted a change of scene, to move away from my home town. It was a good experience, a good challenge, and you get to know people pretty well when you are struggling together. It taught me how to iron! Mum struggled to teach me before I left.”

In contrast, the Loadmasters’ course is tough. “It’s meant to be six months, but it can take eight or nine months. Weather can be a factor. There’s a lot of stress, but it’s worth it. It’s a really unique job.”

He says keeping an eye on the end goal kept him focused. “You are always looking to get it done, even when you don’t feel one hundred percent confident, you learn to deal with it. It gets easier when you know you are moving on to something different.”

He’s got another six months or so at Ohakea, building up his qualifications, before being posted to Auckland. “I’ve never been on a Navy ship, and I’m really excited to be doing that at some point.”

His advice to others is to not be afraid to be yourself. “You don’t have to build yourself up as some other military person and act like that. The assessors can tell if you are trying to be someone you’re not. They look for people with their own personality. They look for people who are real. So be yourself, and just believe in yourself.”

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