Lance Corporal Blythe Clearwater’s love of ballistics has taken him from duck shooting in cold Southland winters to instructing Fijian soldiers on the use of weapons in tropical heat. 

Lance Corporal Clearwater was part of a 15-strong New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Defence Mutual Assistance Training Team (MATT) in Fiji. The team is now nearing the end of managed isolation following its return from the month-long mission.

As an armourer, he was initially meant to be embedded as a coach in the Royal Fiji Military Force armourer unit in what has been his first overseas deployment.

However, in his first week, despite being the sole Kiwi in the unit, he believed it would be better to run an armourer familiarisation course.

 “He designed and conducted the course himself,” said Major John Barclay, the Senior National Officer for the Fiji MATT in commending the impressive performance from the recently promoted junior non-commissioned officer.

 “He was operating by himself, with minimal support. His performance was exceptional; a very considered and mature approach.”

Raised in Edendale, Lance Corporal Clearwater, 23, joined the Army in 2016 soon after leaving Southland Boys’ High School. He followed the path of his grandfather, who was a member of the Otago Mounted Rifles and served in Egypt in World War I.

“I never wanted a standard 9-5 job. I wanted a challenge, something different that not everyone does,” he said.

 “I was drawn to the Army because of my interest and experience with firearms.

“I always went duck shooting with my dad, from about age 10, who taught me about firearms. I was interested in understanding how firearms work and knowing how to fix what’s broken.”

After five years Army training, he relished the chance to go on an overseas operation for the first time.

 He loved helping out Fijian soldiers, learning about their systems, culture, and of course getting a chance to see a bit of the country.

“During the course we’ve covered naming parts and characteristics of small arms so they have some base knowledge about weapons. We went through disassembly and reassembly, then stripped them down into basic parts, to its bare bones and put them back together again.”

They discussed the cycle of a weapon, common faults and practical lessons on disassemble and reassemble, carrying out inspections and how to perform repairs.

“It’s been challenging and good for my own development, I’ve been able to develop instructing skills and grow professionally.”

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