Test of discipline and teamwork
Teens make it through tough courseJARED NICOLL
Picton teenager Chantze Usher-Somers is looking forward to a future as a seaman combat specialist after graduating from the Cactus advanced course on Saturday.
The 18-year-old Queen Charlotte College student has completed 14 of the 15 Cactus courses since the programme began in 2007.
The Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit Support advanced programme runs three times per week for eight weeks during the school terms and encourages 13 to 18-year-olds to focus on discipline and teamwork.
Fourteen participants passed a Longest Day exercise which involved physical and teamwork challenges, such as pulling a Uni-mog truck up High St in Picton. The day runs from 2am to 2pm and the teenagers needed to complete it to graduate the advanced course on Saturday.
The programme is supported by police and co-ordinated by New Zealand Defence Force staff at Base Woodbourne.
Chantze said this was the second time she had completed the Longest Day challenge for the thrill of it.
"I think I'm addicted to it," she joked.
"Just the thought of achieving something as a team - and I like to stay fit and healthy."
The advanced course had them lugging weights on ropes down Wairau Rd into Picton, throwing heavy balls up the steep Gravesend Rd and completing a physical exercise routine in Nelson Square, among other mental and physical obstacles.
Chantze said she enjoyed interacting with the military and police staff as part of the course and was waiting to hear if she had been accepted into the Royal New Zealand Navy.
She had passed the physical and written tests and will find out in November if she has qualified for training as a seaman combat specialist.
"It's a gunnery position but also search and rescue and investigating any boats that might have illegal cargo.
"Throughout my life it would give me challenges and I love them."
Defence Force physical training instructor Matt Williams said the advanced course had done extremely well, especially in wet conditions.
The Longest Day was designed to test their discipline and teamwork whereas the junior courses built up their physical strength.
He has worked on the programme with fellow trainer Leo Waipo, who is retiring from the programme this year, since it began in 2007.
He thanked Picton police, Base Woodbourne staff and the Cactus committee for their support.
Committee chairman Wayne Wytenburg said the team leaders had done a fantastic job to ensure everyone got through the final challenge.
The graduates and instructors received awards at a ceremonial dinner on Saturday.
- The Marlborough Express