My summer in the Army Reserves

My summer in the Army Reserves

Student Ethan Helliwell had his work cut out for him last summer, as he embarked on an unforgettable seven weeks in Waiouru. In this myView student blog post he explains the connection between what he did in the Army Reserves and what he’s studying here at Te Herenga Waka.

Student Ethan Helliwell joined the New Zealand Infantry Reserves over summer to challenge himself and grow his skillset.

Some might struggle to see how a summer in the army could be relevant to a software degree. Despite some initial reservations (no pun intended), I found my summer doing Basic Training 165 with the New Zealand Infantry Reserves to be filled with so many meaningful experiences, compatible with my life and studies.

The reason I signed up was because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and do something maverick, like digging trenches and planting barbed wire, night exercises, helicopter rides, and vehicle checkpoints. These were just a few of dozens of activities in my two-month stint.

Being in the Reserves is something that I always wanted to do part-time before joining the full-time work force. I won’t lie, it wasn’t a walk in the park (although there was plenty of marching). While the sign-up process took me over a year and a half to complete due to COVID-19, it was well worth the wait. I only wish I had applied when I left high school. Applying required paperwork, tests (both intellectual and physical), and an interview like in any other job. The interview was aided by a candidate engagement facilitator answering any questions and telling me what to expect, which helped a lot. 

The 5/7 Battallion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry regiment with Mount Ruapehu in the background.

About one month before my induction day the reality really hit. I knew I had to keep my fitness standards up and start preparing myself mentally for the trials and potential setbacks that come with working in stressful environments, as well as being off the grid and away from loved ones. Not what three years of university hadn’t already prepared me for…or so I thought. 

I had never expected to have so much in-class content where taking notes and prepping for mock tests would be applicable—something we did for almost half the seven-week course.

My favourite part of the whole experience was running through the various weapons systems in a controlled, safe, and detailed environment, and the software that was being implemented throughout Waiouru Military Camp. From the small aspects to teach us module components of the assault rifle, to big aspects like on an internal database, where so much behind the scenes work was being organised. 

Ethan stands to attention at Waiouru Military Camp in the central North Island.

While doing this, I imagined what I could apply from my software degree to the Army systems and procedures, and how the behaviours and skills I’d learnt in the Reserves could be used while studying. The meticulous planning, structure, and discipline, as well as values, standards, and ethics, are just some of the things that more students could benefit from. The Reserves gave me the initiative to be more ambitious, confident, independent, and to improve at university. 

Courage, comradeship, commitment, and integrity are the four core values that you’ll gain if you become a member of the NZDF, along with heaps of skills. Consider doing the challenge yourself and good luck with your study everyone! 

Ethan Helliwell is studying for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours).

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