Journey to the Red Diamond: From basic training to Infantry — Part One

In this story series, Army News follows young soldiers from the start of recruit training, through to Combat Corps Training, to marching out and gaining the coveted Red Diamond of the New Zealand Army’s infantry battalions.

Earlier this year 81 young men and women marched into Waiouru Military Camp to begin their lives as soldiers of the New Zealand Army.

April Ma’a, 17, first started thinking about joining the Army in Year 10. She says it started out as a joke to her Mum, but as the years went by she thought seriously about joining.

“I want a different outlook on life and to find my purpose, I suppose while having some fun and also meeting new people. I wanted to serve, discover and learn new things — I thought this would be an awesome career,” said Ma’a.

Following a careers experience talk at her High School in Golden Bay, it opened her eyes up to the possibility of working for the New Zealand Defence Force and made her want to join even more.

Before marching in, she said she was expecting recruit course to involve sweat and tears, but also she expected lots of knowledge and awesome experiences.

“What I hope to achieve in the 16 weeks in Waiouru would be, new skills, as well as adjusting and understanding the Army lifestyle, while meeting new mates,” she said.

Ma’a said that she is most worried about injuries that could happen throughout training, and being sent home. She was also concerned about being left behind and not being able to handle the intense physical and mental training while undergoing the 16 weeks of training.

“I’ve wanted to be a part of the NZDF for so long and to be told to leave would be disappointing,” she said.

Ma’a said she joined the Infantry Corps because she loves getting in there and putting in the hard yards, while still having a smile on her face.

“I am not afraid of getting my hands dirty, or ruining my nails. I am a proud female Kiwi, doing the same hard work as any male can achieve,” she said.

Ma’a said that RRF is “eye opening” and has given her “a different perspective on life” in the eight weeks she’s been on course.

Recruit Course also isn’t quite what she expected, she thought it would be less modern than it is.

“I did however, expect it to be hard and mentally challenging because if it was easy then everyone would be joining,” she said.

She is now looking forward to the final aspects of recruit training and going out into the field to “put what we have been taught into practice” and she can test herself both as a soldier and as a person.

Tanei Dean, 20, is a Limited Service Volunteer Course (LSV) graduate. LSV is a 6-week course NZDF runs on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development.

Dean was successful on the LSV course — he was awarded top speech, first place in cross country, peers’ choice awarded, and the most effective team member and leadership award. Joining the New Zealand Army was a naturally good fit for him.

His early life wasn’t easy; he was placed in foster care at three months of age until he was 16 when his older brother took him in.

“With 15 plus placements and two different family homes, I was always struggling through school and finding it hard to make friends and maintain those friendships due to moving so much.

“Life was difficult, I found myself lost growing up. It was only when my brother took me in he changed my life and gave me the opportunity to have a better future,” said Dean.

He is looking forward to where his Army career will take him and said there are so many pathways and different opportunities for him, he is also looking forward to making new friends and to have that “family feel for once”.

He said he also chose Infantry because he wants to be on the ground, with people and learn how they live and how he can help in future deployments.

“Growing up in foster care, I had so many people trying to help me. I’d love to give back as much as I can, so I decided to join the military as a way to give back to New Zealand.”

He chose the Infantry Corps because he wants to be challenged physically, mentally, and be pushed beyond his limits.

“I feel like being in the Infantry will help me grow as a person, and develop new skills that will help me in the future,” said Dean.

Most of all he wants to make his brother and family proud.

“I want to have a long career in the NZDF. I hope to achieve good standards and be confident when leaving The Army Depot (TAD) and being posted to my unit,” said Dean.

Eight weeks into recruit course PTE Dean said he was expecting it to be hard and put him out of his comfort zone, but “I really had no idea what the Army had in store for me”.

“I am absolutely enjoying the course. Making new friends and getting opportunities that other kids my age don’t get. Learning new skills every day and finally having that feeling of a new life,” he said.

We will join the recruits next after they have marched out of TAD and are at Combat Corps Training at Burnham Military Camp.

Recruit Regular Force (RRF) is a 16-week course which is commonly known as ‘basic training’, this course will give them the basic skills needed to become a successful soldier, covering everything from the fundamentals of weapons training, first aid, navigation and lessons on military law. Not all will make it, but those that do will march out and then head to their respective Corps to start the next phase of training.

Combat Corps Training (CCT) is a 14-week course that aims to prepare them to operate as an effective member of a rifle section, on completing they will march out as members of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR) and gain the coveted red diamond.

The Red Diamond, worn on the left shoulder of the New Zealand Army dress uniform, in modern times, signifies those who have successfully completed Combat Corps Training and are members of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

The history of The Red Diamond

The Red Diamond, worn on the left shoulder of our dress uniform by members of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, traces its origin to 22nd Battalion, 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force (2nd NZEF) who adopted the patch of 9th NZ Infantry Brigade deployed as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation of Japan, known as J Force.

In 1947, 2nd NZEF’s Brigade in Japan was reorganised, and 22nd Battalion was re-designated 2nd Battalion of the New Zealand Regiment. The Battalion was disbanded in 1948 and reformed in July 1959, when the Commanding Officer claimed descent for the new Battalion from the re-designated and disbanded 22nd Battalion.

In 1963 the 1st Battalion Depot was formed, the Commanding Officer of the Depot awarded the Red Diamond to personnel who had completed their Infantry Corps training. From 1964 the Red Diamond was worn as a dress distinction for personnel on posted to 1RNZIR and 2/1RNZIR.

In 2007 the patch was approved to be recognised as a qualification rather than a Corps distinction and it is awarded to, and worn by, all personnel who have successfully completed combat corps training regardless of unit or posting.

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