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From Eketahuna to the deep blue sea

Sub-Lieutenant Charlotte Carew is posted to Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Canterbury, which is taking part in Exercise Talisman Sabre with the United States, Australian and other forces, near Rockhampton, Australia. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Eketahuna’s Charlotte Carew always knew she didn’t want a “stationary” job in life, and she has certainly got the adventure she was looking for since joining the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Soon after being commissioned, Carew was part of New Zealand’s humanitarian and disaster relief effort to Fiji after Cyclone Winston struck in 2016.

“Then in the same year I did a fisheries operation in the western Pacific, and then went down to the ice for a Southern Ocean patrol,” she said. “It made for a really busy year but I learned so much and got to go to so many cool places.”

She is posted to HMNZS Canterbury, which is taking part in Exercise Talisman Sabre with Australian, United States and other forces near Rockhampton, Australia.

More than 600 New Zealand Defence Force personnel, 27 New Zealand Army light armoured vehicles, and three Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters are also participating in the exercise which runs until July 25.

After growing up in Eketahuna, Carew, 22, joined the navy when she finished Wairarapa College.

“I didn’t want a desk job, so I started looking at the navy in Year 13,” she said.

She has naval history on both sides of her family dating back to World War II. Her father served in the Royal Navy for 31 years.

Her role is Bridge Watchkeeper 3.

Bridge watchkeepers do four-hour shifts, with either eight hours or 12 hours off. Effectively, millions of dollars-worth of ship and equipment and 300 people come under the care of the junior officers, who keep the ship safe from collision or grounding, day and night.

“That means I am responsible for the safety of the ship at different periods during the day and night,” she said.

The hardest part of her career so far was passing the basic watchkeeping course.

“There is a lot of information to take in and you have to work hard, but it is such a good feeling when you pass it.”

Now, going on watch gives her a buzz.

“Every time you go on watch, there’s something different happening, and anywhere you go is somewhere different, with different people.”

She is especially proud of the work the New Zealand Defence Force does in the Pacific.

“Just those few months we spent in Fiji in 2016, it was so good to see the change that we could bring to the lives of people who had pretty much lost everything,” she said.

“The fisheries patrols we do keep our oceans sustainable.

“Helping to prevent over-fishing or illegal fishing helps the seas and our communities survive and thrive.”

This is the third time New Zealand has taken part in Exercise Talisman Sabre, a bilateral, Australian-hosted and United States-supported combined exercise held every two years to improve combat readiness, exercise war fighting skills and systems, and interoperability.

More than 30,000 participants are taking part this year, including personnel from Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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