When a Kaikohe 17-year-old was wondering what to do with his life the Air Force seemed an obvious choice.
Following in his family's footsteps, Flying Officer Christopher Moohan (Ngāpuhi), from Kaikohe, has now graduated from the Officer Commissioning Course at Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Woodbourne.
Moohan, 32, originally joined the RNZAF in 2007 as an aircraft technician. His parents were in the RNZAF in the 1980s, where his mum worked as a safety and surface technician and dad as an avionics technician. His sister also joined in 2006 as an administration clerk.
"I was sold on getting a trade under my belt while the military paid me. At 17 I didn't know what I wanted for my future, I did know, however, that the military was a place I wanted to be from the stories from my parents' life in the military," Moohan said.
After spending 10 years as an aircraft technician, he left to get a Bachelor in Business Management. He then re-enlisted as a supply officer in June 2021.
"When I finished my degree the world went into lockdown and the security of working in the New Zealand Defence Force was the best thing for me and my family. I never thought that I was capable of becoming an officer, but my friends in the military encouraged me that I was which cemented my decision."
Moohan has a 2-year-old daughter and his partner, Corporal Megan Cosgrove, is also in the RNZAF.
An intensive four-month course that is a mixture of university study, RNZAF and NZDF specific classes and leadership training, helps prepare new officers for managing, coaching and mentoring younger airmen and women.
"This course has been especially difficult to navigate as New Zealand went into lockdown four days in. This meant our directing staff had to work hard behind the scenes to get us where we are today."
Moohan said he had been on a long journey learning about his Māori heritage from his mother's side of the family, growing up in Kaikohe.
The bicultural environment of the RNZAF had boosted his pride and he hoped that others could feel the same way he did when they joined.
"I am proud of my culture and the way it makes me feel. The way that it connects me to the land and my people. When I rejoined the RNZAF we were welcomed with a haka powhiri. The feeling of pride and belonging will stick with me forever."