Former NZ Defence Force squadron leader and new Stroke Foundation community adviser Judith Telford has taken on some "huge, scary challenges" during her life.

That included three major deployments to Somalia, Afghanistan and East Timor during her 28-year career with the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corp and Air Force.

Ms Telford, 57, held 16 different roles during her military career which began at Waioru Military Camp in 1985 and rose through the ranks from lieutenant to squadron leader.

She has worked as a trauma nurse, Defence Health Services school instructor and a flight nurse bringing sick and injured service personnel back home for urgent treatment.


Ms Telford said her first deployment was as a member of 65 to 70 Kiwi contingent arriving in Somalia in late 1993 not long after two American Black Hawk helicopters were shot down.

"When we landed in Somalia I thought 'Oh my God where have I come to?' The heat was unbearable, 40 degrees plus, and the basis infrastructure in the area was crap," she said.

Ms Telford said the deployment was "exciting and scary" at the same time, and carrying a semi-automatic weapon around was standard kit for her and other medical staff.

"But Somalia is no different today, with its war lords, corruption and poverty," she said.

Afghanistan was Ms Telford's last deployment primarily as a member of a medical reconnaissance team, and she was also deployed to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

In 2010 the Wellington-born-and-trained registered nurse also headed a project - which was her brainchild - to convert a Boeing 757 into a flying hospital.

Following her retirement from the Defence Force she worked as a co-ordinator at Hilda Ross Hospital in Hamilton, then clinical manager at Oceania Health Care in Cambridge.

Needing more work-life balance, Ms Telford said she decided to enter the aged care sector and a move to Tauranga beckoned.


After selling her Cambridge home last year, Ms Telford found a "little slice of paradise" in Papamoa Beach and secured her "dream job" working for the Stroke Foundation.

Ms Telford said her new role included going into the homes of stroke survivors assessing their rehabilitation needs and also giving comfort and support to their families.

"It's a radical change from caring for sick and injured service personnel, but it's a role I'm relishing, and it's a chance to give back to the community," she said.

Stroke Foundation chief executive officer Mark Vivian said it was fantastic to have Ms Telford on board.

"She not only brings an amazing wealth of expertise and experience, she obviously feels strongly about her work and wants to help people, " he said.

Remember the Stroke's Foundations FAST campaign

FACE - Is someone's face drooping on one side? Can they smile?

ARM - Is one arm weak? Can they raise both arms?

SPEECH - Is someone's speech jumbled or slurred? Can they speak at all?

TIME - Having a stroke is a medical emergency. Act FAST call 111.