10 November 2015
Two former Hawke’s Bay men, who used to compete against each other at school in clay pigeon shooting, were jointly named New Zealand Army’s Top Recruit last week at their recruit course graduation.
Private (PTE) Pete Hewitt, 28, and Private Vaughan Danks, 25, graduated last week in Waiouru from Cassino Company’s All Arms Recruit Course 378, which had 81 recruits marching out.
The two had shot competitively against each other while at secondary school, PTE Hewitt at Lindisfarne College in Hastings and PTE Danks at Palmerston North Boys’ High School. They went their separate ways after leaving school, but met again at the start of their Army training, along with another friend from school days.
"We all shot at school together. It was hard case to come and join the Army and then you’ve got three best mates here together, it’s really cool," said PTE Danks.
As well as being awarded Top Recruit, they finished first and second in the toughest physical challenge of their training – an exercise known as Warrior. PTE Hewitt also won the award for Top Shot.
"I definitely wasn’t expecting it. There are some pretty top shots here in the company, like Danks himself – he’s a really good shot. To come away with it, I’m pretty stoked," PTE Hewitt said.
PTE Danks said being awarded Top Recruit was "pretty cool".
Completing the Warrior exercise had tested him physically and mentally, but the competition against others including PTE Hewitt had spurred him to push himself harder.
"He got top Warrior and I got second. We’ve been competitive the whole way really," PTE Danks said.
New recruits are trained in field and battle craft, weapons training, and other skills such as first aid and navigation. The NZ Army’s 16 week basic training is known for being physically demanding.
To win the award for Top Recruit, both men had to prove themselves across all disciplines during their training.
PTE Hewitt was a stock agent before joining the Army while PTE Danks had been a digger driver in the mines in Australia before returning to New Zealand.
Both PTE Hewitt and PTE Danks have joined the infantry and will be based at Burnham Army Camp, near Christchurch.
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