At the start of 2020, Palmerston North Sapper Ric Prangnell was entertaining cruise ship guests as a dancer and aerial performer. While he enjoyed the job, he was looking for something more meaningful.

The 27-year-old recently achieved that - after swapping the high seas for Waiouru tussock and graduating top of his New Zealand Army recruit course.

Sapper Prangnell’s instructors believed he showed the exemplary leadership and military skills required for the Top Recruit award and excelled across all disciplines throughout the course.

Now Sapper Prangnell, Corps of Royal New Zealand Engineers, is looking forward to serving his country and gaining some more qualifications for his varied CV.

The former Palmerston North Boys’ High school student said he had thought about joining the military for several years. Instead, after studying performing arts in Australia for four years, he signed up as a cruise liner performer.

“I loved it and loved the joy it brought the guests on the ship, but decided at the start of 2020 to take my future a little more seriously and performing has an expiration date.”

He met his fiancé while on board and he decided he wanted to set up a foundation for them and a possible family, perhaps through a building apprenticeship.

“And I wanted a job with purpose and honour.” 

Then COVID-19 hit.

“At that point I was trying really hard to find someone who would take me on, but all the builders were just trying to stay afloat. It was a friend of mine who was already in the Army who suggested I look at joining and training as a carpenter.”

Sapper Prangnell said he made sure he was ready for the experience of the recruit course.

“Actually I was over-prepared. Because I am a little older than a lot of the other recruits I had heard a lot of other people’s experiences.

“I didn’t expect it to be harder than it was, but I think people have a misconception that you’re going to be treated harshly and you’re definitely not. You’re supported through the process.

“It takes a particular type of person to do it, but I don’t think everyone knows they are that person. The process the instructors take you through helps people learn a lot about themselves and you are put in situations in a safe environment to learn.”

The next stage of his training will be at the School of Military Engineering at Linton Military Camp.

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