Commander Mike Peebles, who began his Royal New Zealand Navy training on Anzac frigate HMNZS Te Mana 18 years ago, has now returned as the ship's new commanding officer.
Peebles, 36, returned to HMNZS Te Mana this month, becoming one of the youngest frigate commanding officers in the Navy's history.
Born and raised in Taranaki, Peebles joined the Navy immediately after gaining a university bursary in his final year at New Plymouth Boys' High School.
"All my mates went to university, but I had a love of the sea and wanted to do something different and exciting," he says.
After he graduated from junior officer common training as a midshipman, he was posted to HMNZS Te Mana in 2001 for three months at sea, during which the ship took part in a large international exercise off Darwin.
"I vividly remember standing on the bridge with fighter jets passing low overhead, buzzing the ship in simulated attacks.
"That made a big impression on me as a fresh-faced 19-year-old and it cemented the feeling that this was where I should be."
He followed that first posting with training as a warfare officer on inshore patrol and support ships and gained service medals for maritime operations in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.
"I served as a bridge watch keeper and boarding officer during two operations post the 9/11 terror attacks, looking for narcotics and illegal weapons in the fight against terrorism," he says.
"It was great being able to put that early training into action being part of a team that was making a difference internationally."
In 2005 he became commanding officer of the inshore patrol craft HMNZS Moa, conducting fishery and Customs patrols around the New Zealand coast, and in 2009 he spent a year in Britain completing the Royal Navy principal warfare officer course at HMS Collingwood.
After roles at sea and on land once he returned to New Zealand, in 2015 he assisted with the successful interception and confiscation of almost 260kg of narcotics as part of a combined task force for maritime security operations off the coast of Africa.
"One of the highlights of that posting was being on the Gallipoli Peninsula for the 100-year Anzac Day commemoration. I was proud to represent our country, Navy and ship as Te Kaha sailed past in an international formation."
In recent years Peebles has completed a staff and command course, graduating with a masters degree in international security from Massey University, and served as operations planner at joint forces headquarters in Wellington.
His command of HMNZS Te Mana begins with the ship based in Canada, undergoing a systems upgrade.
"The regeneration package for the ship will result in new capabilities that will put us on par or above any Navy in the world," Peebles says.
"I'm looking forward to developing and preparing the ship for the next stage of its life. We will be busy preparing for the future by bringing the ship back to New Zealand ready to advance New Zealand's interests from the sea as a capable and credible fighting force.
"People are what makes the Navy and being part of this amazing team drives me."