Woodbourne base for new training course

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 13:48 17/02/2014

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Base Woodbourne has found itself at the forefront of national defence force training, with the new Joint Officer Training Course being piloted at the base.

The programme is the first of its kind, integrating instructors and trainee officers from the army, navy and airforce in one seven-week course. A total of 115 trainee officers and 27 instructors started the course five weeks ago.

RNZAF Base Woodbourne commanding officer Wing Commander Pete King said that they were excited to have the training course piloted at the base. "The whole base is buzzing. Having this course here is very important to us," he said.

Squadron Leader Brendon Clark explained that while the course was new in that it incorporated recruits from all three branches of defence, the material being taught was not. The aim was to teach elements common to all three branches, such as weapons, navigation and survival training.

During the training they had experienced a flight aboard a Hercules transport plane, been set adrift in a liferaft and had to endure a bush survival situation. They also learned to fire a pistol for the first time.

"It gives the trainee officers a better understanding of what the other branches of defence are about and how they work. In any theatre there will normally be two of those branches and sometimes all three present, so having a better understanding of each other makes sense," Squadron Leader Clark said.

The course was proving a big hit with both instructors and their students, with just five trainees pulling out. It was not unexpected that some recruits would pull out, he said, as the 47-day long course ran from 5.30am to 10pm each day and pushed them hard. "It's no walk in the park," he says.

One of the airforce trainee officers from Blenheim, Corban Phillips, said he was finding the combined approach of the course very insightful. "There are a few stigmas about what the other guys [navy and army] do, but I now know a lot more about them. Having the knowledge is definitely important for the future."

Joining the armed forces had been a dream of the 19 year-old for five years - he even moved to Blenheim to be closer to the base.

The trainees are due to graduate on February 27 before heading off to their respective specialist training bases. A new batch would start the course in June, with two more courses to be run next year as part of the pilot.

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- The Marlborough Express

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