No ‘what if’ for Whakatane Warfare Officer

If you had to be in a COVID-19 Level lockdown for five weeks, it’s good to be with an awesome group of friends.

That’s how Midshipman Hannah Van der Horst, 20, sees her fellow officers, who all graduated on 18 July from the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Junior Officer Common Training class 20/01 at Devonport Naval Base.

Midshipman Van der Horst, now a warfare officer, finished at Whakatane High School and eyed up the Navy as a career after a year on a Rotary Youth exchange in France.

“I had been thinking about it for a few years, and I have an uncle in the Reserves. He suggested it would be something I would enjoy. I had a look online and found things that sounded like me.” The travel and meeting new people also appealed.

Her training ran across the Level 4 lockdown, meaning her officer training was extended from 22 weeks to 27.

“That was pretty rough for all of us having five weeks in lockdown. We still trained to a modified schedule. Our classes were in three separate bubbles, and we connected by Zoom. We could do things like our history essays and mindfulness training, but there’s things you can’t do when you can’t have instructors within two metres. But I was with an awesome group of people for five weeks. That was pretty cool.”

The toughest part of the course was when the team role-played a Navy team helping with disaster relief in an island country with civil unrest. “That was physically and mentally challenging, but it’s an awesome test of how far you’ve come, and it allows you to put your leadership skills into practice.”

She has had prior leadership experience, as captain of the Bay of Plenty Dressage team, and being a prefect at school. She will return to her school to give a talk after graduation. “I’ll tell them, take every opportunity that comes your way. If you don’t take it, you’ll wonder, ‘what if’?”

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