Navy crew members return home to Tauranga

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Midshipman Matthew Barnett, 20, is returning to Tauranga. Photo/Supplied
Midshipman Matthew Barnett, 20, is returning to Tauranga. Photo/Supplied

Put Midshipman Matthew Barnett in front of a year 13 class at his old high school, and he would tell the students that driving ships is a pretty good way to start a working career.

Midshipman (MID) Barnett is one of two Tauranga crew members who are looking forward to catching up with friends and family when their ship, the frigate HMNZS Te Mana, docks in Tauranga this week in preparation for the crew's Charter Parade from the waterfront to the Tauranga City Council offices.

The entire ship's company will be granted the "Freedom of the City" on Saturday, in honour of their loyal relationship with the city as a home port, and will exercise the right to march through the city's streets "with drums beating, bands playing, colours flying, bayonets fixed and swords drawn".

MID Barnett, 20, and Able Communications Warfare Specialist (ACWS) Michael Simpson-Woods, 23, both attended Tauranga Boys' College and had similar reasons for joining the Navy.

MID Barnett said his main reason for joining was to "travel the world", while ACWS Simpson-Woods also thought travel was "enticing, and it sounded better than studying at university".

MID Barnett is a junior bridge officer.

"My day-to-day job at sea includes watchkeeping on the bridge where I am training to be in charge of the ship's safe navigation and running the ship's routine."

After completing his basic Officer of the Watch training, which includes basic navigation and ship handling, he joined the crew of HMNZS Te Mana.

"Being a watch keeper on HMNZS Te Mana and being able to drive one of the 'flagships' of our fleet is an awesome feeling.

"The Navy is a great place to start your working life. What better way than travelling the world and being paid to do it? I'm seeing things that not many people get to do and see in a lifetime, let alone two years out of school."

ACWS Simpson-Woods is a rating specialising in communications.

"As a Communications Warfare Specialist, it is my job to provide, operate and maintain various forms of communications equipment, such as radios, flag hoist and Morse code via flashing light".

Able Communications Warfare Specialist Michael Simpson-Woods, 23. Photo/Supplied
Able Communications Warfare Specialist Michael Simpson-Woods, 23. Photo/Supplied

Along the way, so far he has been to the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Auckland Islands and Chatham Islands.

He says the highlight of his career so far was participating in the Dawn Service as a member of the Catafalque Guard for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in Turkey.

This year is the 75th Anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy. The Charter Parade begins at 11am at Tauranga's waterfront. HMNZS Te Mana will also hold an open day on Saturday from 10-4pm.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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