From Paint Shop to Patrol Force

20120416_PH_T1015674_0004.jpg Lieutenant Tenisha Cawte at work on HMNZS Wellington

17 April 2012

Tenisha Cawte was working in a paint shop in Mount Maunganui when she was recruited into the Navy.

The Ngatea (Waikato) local was studying for her Bachelor of Commerce degree and working part time when a Navy recruiting officer came in to buy paint for his house.

"Before I knew it he had sent information and recruited me," says Tenisha, 24. Since then life has been much more exciting.

Lieutenant Cawte is currently Supply Officer on HMNZS Wellington, one of the Navy’s new offshore patrol vessels. She’s served on several ships, and has voyaged around Asia, the Pacific, and recently south to the sub-Antarctic.

In Tonga she helped build a playground for schoolchildren. In Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, she helped paint a school. And her ship at the time, the Canterbury, arrived in Christchurch two hours before last year’s February earthquake.

"I was officer of the watch and we could see buildings falling and the Lyttelton wharf crashing up and down."

Before long Tenisha and her shipmates were in the middle of the action, helping police with overnight anti-looting patrols.

"We saw people who were attempting to loot – they had bags," she says. "But everyone who saw me ran – they must have thought I was heavily armed."

The Navy team also cooked 900 extra meals a day for local people and delivered them with Army trucks.

As Supply Officer on board the Wellington, Tenisha is responsible for the ship’s logistics, legal requirements, human resources and finance. She’s in charge of the chefs, stewards, stores and medics. And she knows how to drive the ship if need be.

Tenisha is also the ship’s damage control officer, taking charge if there are fires, floods, or toxic gas emergencies. And these do happen – including once when Tenisha was being tested for promotion.

"We had 12 hours of exercises, and then I had to deal with a security issue and a fire. I think it helped me pass – the captain saw me cope with the real thing."

Tenisha has also been able to carry on with her studies, graduating with Honours in Employment Relations, with much of the cost having been met by the Navy. And at the moment she’s studying Italian.

It’s a life that suits her well: "I get bored easily. This keeps me enthused, energised and well entertained."


For more information contact Lieutenant Commander Ange Barker Senior Communications and Media Advisory – Navy 021 244 0638

This page was last reviewed on 23 April 2012.