Living the Navy Dream

Sub Lieutenant Samantha Palmer on the Bridge of HMNZS WELLINGTON

13 April 2012

Since Samantha Palmer joined the Navy she’s been on anti-piracy operations in Somalia, learnt to fast-rope out of a helicopter, searched for unexploded World War II ordnance in the Pacific, and been one of the first on the scene after the Canterbury earthquake. And those are just a few of the adventures the Sunnyvale local has packed into five years at sea.

Sub-Lieutenant Palmer, 26, joined the Navy from the West Auckland suburb of Sunnyvale after travelling the world for three years. Both her grandfathers were in the British Army, but there is no naval tradition in the family. "My parents were shocked but proud," she says.

Sam is the Operations Officer on HMNZS Wellington, one of the Navy’s new offshore patrol vessels, which recently returned from a mission to the Auckland Islands in the sub-Antarctic to support Department of Conservation activities.

As the Commanding Officer’s representative on the bridge she’s in charge of the ship when he’s not present. Sam also manages the ship’s programme of external and internal activities. On the Auckland Island voyage that meant making sure DoC was able to achieve everything it set out to do, and getting the crew ashore when possible to enjoy the spectacular sub-Antarctic scenery.

As part of her training Sam is also studying politics and psychology, paid for by the Navy and enjoying all the benefits of a Navy career.

"You have instant friends wherever you go, and there are lots of opportunities to travel. In the civvie world every day’s the same – but officers every 18 months or so do something completely different."

And the highlights of the job so far? An 18-month exchange with the British Royal Navy saw Sam boarding pirate ships off the coast of Somalia, and spending time on a submarine. But one of the experiences which stands out is doing security patrols in Lyttelton after the Christchurch earthquake.

"People set up coffee stands in the streets for us. There were lots of worried people in houses – I think they were glad to see us walking past their windows."


For more information contact Lieutenant Commander Angela Barker – Senior Communications and Media Advisor (Navy) 021 244 0638


This page was last reviewed on 13 April 2012.