Taupō woman Samantha Carter has become the first female Petty Officer Seaman Combat Specialist in the history of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Carter was 17 when she joined in 2008, a few months into working as a chef in Taupō after finishing at Taupō-nui-a-Tia College.

"My mum did all the research, printed out the forms, and got me over for a coffee," she said.

"She knew there was something more for me. Without her, I wouldn't have ended up anywhere."

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Seaman Combat Specialists are the "gunners" of the Navy, required to handle small arms, carry out seamanship evolutions and ceremonial duties for their trade and the RNZN.

The role appealed to Carter.

"It's about serving your country in a warfighting context. It's about seamanship, being at sea, handling weapons, driving boats."

Basic Common Training was tough, she said, and she was told many times it wasn't the trade for her.

It only made her more determined to succeed.

"The instructors were pretty hard, and there weren't many females in this trade. But growing up in a rural setting and small town, I was raised hardy, so it just made it more appealing to me.

"I thought, 'You know what? I'm going to prove these guys wrong. I'm going to show them I can do it.'"

After graduating from Basic Common Training, Carter completed her trade training and has posted since to RNZN ships HMNZS Te Kaha, Te Mana, Otago and Hawea.

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She has been posted overseas on the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Melbourne, on counter narcotic and anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

"I was part of the boat crews for boardings. A highlight of the trip was when the boarding party detained nine Somalian pirates. We then transported them back to the coast - that was an awesome experience."

Achieving the senior rate rank of Petty Officer required her to pass her trade professional course and a leadership development course, and she was dux of both of them.

"I'm definitely driven," she said. "When I have got a task, it's 100 per cent."

She is currently the Petty Officer Seaman Combat Specialist on frigate HMNZS Te Kaha, and will rejoin the ship in Canada next year after its refurbishment is complete.

In the meantime, there's plenty to do on base, including training sailors to convert to the New Zealand Defence Force's new rifle, increasing skills and continuation training for the crew prior to heading back to Canada.