Kiwi spends Christmas in counter-piracy role
Patrolling waters off the Somalian coast as part of a counter-piracy operation is about as far removed from a traditional Kiwi Christmas as you can get.
But that's exactly what former Southlander and Royal New Zealand Navy Able Marine Technician (Propulsion) Sam Shannon is doing this summer as part of the New Zealand Defence Force's contribution to counter-piracy efforts.
AMT(P) Shannon has been with the navy for 2 years. He and six other Southlanders are part of a 180-strong crew on board the New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Mana stationed in the Gulf of Aden.
As far as deployments go, this one is "pretty awesome", he said.
"You don't really hear of the New Zealand Navy doing these kind of things."
The 21-year-old, originally from Invercargill, is working with a multi-national naval partnership established to promote maritime security, stability, and prosperity in a large area of international waters.
His deployment, as an engineer, focuses on counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden region and off the eastern coast of Somalia. Pretty heavy stuff for a first Christmas away from home.
Working 5am to 11pm shifts leaves no time for homesickness, however.
"We left New Zealand in August and return in March next year.
"I don't get homesick. When I'm posted in Auckland I don't see them [family] for four months at a time . . . I'm just used to it."
While many young boys may dream of pirate encounters in far-off seas, a life on board a navy ship is a far cry from his initial career plans.
Originally, he was going to train as a builder. However, a Navy Adventure Challenge undertaken in his seventh-form year at school changed all that and he hasn't looked back since.
Since then, he has been deployed to Sydney, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Guam.
"It's been awesome. It's always sort of a goal [the travel]. It's why you sign up to the navy."
Despite all the international travel, it seems you can't beat a good Kiwi roadie with friends.
"All my friends are posting on Facebook about their holidays and stuff and you kind of wish you were there as well, but we have a job to do as well."
The Southland Times