A former Opihi Service Academy student is ready to start his new life in the army.
Hard work has paid off for Jamie Mason, who credits the academy with changing his path in life and teaching him respect and values.
The 18-year-old, who said he was not the best at school "but not too bad", opted to join the academy, in Timaru, over his final years at school.
He said he was glad he had done so. If he hadn't, Mason said he'd "most likely be smoking, doing drugs and drinking heaps" and didn't know if he would even be working.
Mason graduated from the academy last year but stayed to help before moving on to the army.
He said when he started at the academy, he enjoyed the physical exercise, but didn't understand the drill and military side of it.
Mason said he was thankful to the staff at Opihi for taking him on board and "getting him through," and his mum for "always being there and putting up with all my rubbish".
He started his 17 weeks of basic core training at Waiouru Military Camp this week and said he was looking forward to the new people he will meet.
He said he aims to stay in the army for a while and work his way up to the rank of sergeant. His advice to up-and-coming students is to dream big and work hard because "you never know what you can achieve".
Mason is the second student to move on to the army under the direction of Stacey McVeigh, director of the academy since 2011.
Director of Defence Recruiting, Commander Wayne Burtton, said each year the New Zealand Army takes approximately 60 officer applicants and 824 soldiers, inclusive of 140 Reserve Force soldiers.
In 2013 there were 6772 applications to join the army.
Before being accepted, applicants undertake an aptitude and fitness test, complete an initial health check, attend an interview where suitability for the defence force is tested, and go forward for national selection.
Once selected they must undertake a full health check, pass a police check and attend an induction day and confirmatory fitness test.
- The Timaru Herald