Highschool dropout helms navy frigate

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013
David McEwan
DYANNE ARMSTRONG/ Devonport Naval Base

FRIGATE CONTROL: Commanding Officer of the HMNZS Te Kaha David McEwan, with wife Wendy, on the bridge.

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Command of the navy's most prestigious warship Te Kaha has been handed over to a man who was once a high school dropout.

Commanding Officer David McEwan, 47, was registered unemployed when he joined the Limited Service Volunteer scheme run by the New Zealand Defence Force in 1984.

''When I left school I didn't have much of a focus. I wasn't really the academic type, I just wanted to have a good time,'' he said.

McEwan completed the five-month programme and signed on with the Royal New Zealand Navy as a radar operator.

''A lot of people kept saying I had the makings of an officer and so I went back to night school to get my requisite maths. I then progressed through the ranks and became a combat officer.''

McEwan received a call that would see him return to sea while working at the navy headquarters in Wellington.

''They called me and asked if I wanted to go chasing pirates around the Horn of Africa. I couldn't say no to that.'' 

McEwan has commanded more ships in the past two years than most naval officers will throughout their entire careers.

He took command of the HMNZS Otago in 2011 and in September last year was in charge of  HMNZS Wellington.

This appointment was of particular significance as it saw him return to Te Kaha, having previously served as gunnery officer, operations officer and eventually lieutenant commander.

''Walking through here the other day brought back enormous memories.

''It feels good to be back and it's an extremely proud moment for myself and my family,'' he said.

Te Kaha will  undergo a 12-month maintenance phase before it returns to sea.

The vessel is one of only two frigates in the Royal New Zealand Navy fleet including the HMNZS Te Mana. 

It has a crew of around 177 officers and ratings when fully operational. On board are a range of weapons including a vertical launch system with Nato Seasparrow air defence missile, two torpedo tubes and a number of machine guns. The ship also carries a Seasprite helicopter that can be armed with torpedoes, depth charges and missiles.

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- Auckland Now

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