Leighton Brown spent six intense weeks waking up a 5.30am, showering in a minute, and being told what to do every minute of everyday.
Brown, who lives in Havelock North, has recently graduated from the Limited Service Volunteer course, a military style course run by the Defence Force and Ministry of Social Development, aimed at improving the lives of young people in New Zealand.
He said the experience changed his life.
Brown said he had started going down a bad path after finishing high school.
"For a long time I was hanging out with the wrong people.
"I got into alcohol, drugs and that sort of buzz, you know the same old story.
"That went on for a few years and I was getting sick of it."
He learnt about the LSV course through Work and Income, and headed down to Burnham Military Camp in Christchurch in April this year.
The six-week course, celebrating its 25th year, sees young people do tasks such as high ropes and tramping trips, with 5.30am starts and 10pm finishes.
Brown was recognised for his efforts on the course with the Officer Commanding Award For All Round Excellence, only one of which is awarded each course (with 120 people on it).
"It was really surprising."
He said he was awarded it due to supporting and encouraging other members of his platoon.
"I stopped a lot of people from giving up.
"At the same time, that helped me not give up as well, because it was quite hard being away from my family and having to change myself as well."
He said he learnt self-discipline, co-operation, confidence and respect during the course.
"Time management as well, getting up on time, going to bed on time, doing everything on time, getting to your job on time, your activity.
"All of these good things about life and how it should be we were taught at the Burnham Military Camp over the six weeks."
He said as well as life skills, they were taught employment skills, and he now has the confidence to walk into a business, or phone them, as ask about employment opportunities, something he would have been to shy to do in the past.
Brown has been back a week and has been offered six jobs, although he is struggling due to a lack of transportation, a catch-22 situation because he needs a job to earn money to buy a car, but needs a car to get a job.
He plans to join the army.
"I've already applied for the army, so by January I'll be going to the NZDF."
He says he is the only one in his platoon who does not have a job at this stage, with many coming from difficult backgrounds, including people who were detoxing from drug addiction during the first weeks of the course.
MSD's East Coast Regional Commissioner Annie Aranui said Brown is a great role model.
"Leighton is a great role model for other young people and is already sharing his experience of LSV at our recruitment seminars."
LSV courses are one of the tools MSD uses to help young people into employment and training.
In March 2019 there was a total of 4290 people in Hawke's Bay on a jobseeker benefit.
This is up from 3953 in March 2018.