The Kaitaia College Services Academy (Te Puna Mana Toa) has been back to Waiouru with a new cohort of 20 Year 12-13 students for two weeks of intense training at the military camp.
(It was the last induction course for the northern academies at Waiouru, with future courses to take place at the Whenuapai Air Force Base).
The course, led by the New Zealand Defence Forces' Youth Development Unit, was designed to introduce the students to the ethos and values of the academy through military-style methodology that promoted and fostered teamwork, Kaitaia College Academy director Dudley Andrews said, providing a foundation for continued training, education and personal development.
A total of 240 students representing 13 service academies and schools from Huntly to Kaitaia were there, Mr Andrews saying that, as with each Te Puna Mana Toa cohort before them, Delta Class was welcomed with 'shock and awe'.
"The aim is to shift students from their relaxed train of thought to one that promotes urgency," he said.
"It is an effective crash course on the expectations of the NZDF staff, and is an instant indication of who is the instructor and who is the student. They were given tasks to complete under time and pressure, and any academies that could not complete those tasks in the time allowed were given a physically motivating activity.
"To the trained eye this method of welcome is a necessary component towards shifting mindsets, but for the students it is running and listening to instructions, learning on the move and reacting to commands with urgency, while maintaining their personal discipline and determination.
"As hard as it might be, I am yet to witness a student who doesn't push through and get the job done."
The Kaitaia students were then placed in 4 Platoon, alongside their Northland College counterparts, staying in Terendak Barracks, on the same floor as every Kaitaia College Services Academy student since the academy was established in 2016.
For two weeks their day began at 5.30am and ended at 10.30pm, their 17 hours being devoted to a continuous, relentless well-planned programme that kept them engaged for every minute.
"Some will be thinking there was no time for fun and rest, but there was a lot of fun to be had. Instead of being behind a phone or in front of television it was found in the company of those who walked the walk together on this journey," Mr Andrews added.
"What was done on a daily basis is quite hard to explain, but what I can say is that although each day was different, the disciplines and the routines remained the same. For example, by 8am on Monday, March 4, while everyone else was starting their normal day, the students were up, shaved, showered, had had a dress/room inspection, had had breakfast, washed their clothes, cleaned the toilets/showers and were ready for the day's activities by 0800.
"By 8.30 the platoon was formed up at the start of the confidence course, with lunch at noon, and at 1pm were formed up for the next activity, using teamwork to raise a military tent. Dinner at 6pm was followed at 6.30 by the night routine, an opportunity to clean and iron clothes, polish boots or just reflect on the day, then bed at 10.30pm.
"It was not uncommon for students to face and overcome a personal fear more than once a day, and as the days went on what used to hold them back became but a distant memory."
The students had gained not only important life skills, credits and hours of instruction, but now had a different perspective of themselves and their environment, a newfound respect and appreciation for the simple things in life and for their whānau.
"Being a former military instructor myself, I am very impressed with the high standard of professionalism and care displayed by the staff of YDU NZDF," he said.
"The professionalism was displayed in the numerous haka, tears, hand shakes and respect given to them by their students."