Whakatane Woman Chooses a Life on the Ocean Wave

Able Seaman Combat Specialist (ASCS) Janneke Olthuis, of Whakatane, is serving on the Navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha at Exercise Rim of the Pacific.
Able Seaman Combat Specialist (ASCS) Janneke Olthuis, of Whakatane, is serving on the Navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha at Exercise Rim of the Pacific.

26 July 2016

Able Seaman Combat Specialist (ASCS) Janneke Olthuis, of Whakatane, is seeing the world with the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).

After joining RNZN just 18 months ago she has already been to Singapore and Australia and is now in Hawaii for Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) – the world’s largest international maritime exercise.

ASCS Olthuis, 19, is serving on the Frigate HMNZS Te Kaha. She joined the ship in September last year, just after it had just arrived in Singapore.

“Being crash-posted to a frigate in Singapore straight out of training, after only nine months in the Navy and with no real work experience, definitely blew my expectations out of the water, for the first year of my naval career,” she says.

“Not only did I get to see Singapore and Australia, thoroughly, for the first time, I met a whole new bunch of people that I became close to, and learned my trade inside and out, rather quickly.”

As a combat specialist, her role on Te Kaha involves maintaining the ship, watchkeeping, boarding operations, weapons handing – and just keeping the ship operating smoothly. 

“It’s very different to your ordinary ‘office space’ job,” she says.

She joined the RNZN at the beginning of 2015, fresh out of Trident High School.

“I joined because I wanted a break from studying. I wanted a hands-on outdoor job and felt it was a good chance to get some savings and travel done at the same time, which is exactly what I was fortunate enough to get.”

Life in the Navy also ties into her other passions – marine biology and keeping fit.

“The Navy, even when at sea, enables these interests to grow just by the sheer nature of the job. I love being at sea seeing new things such as sea states, marine mammals and fish, as well as the enthusiasm for ship physical training among the ship’s company.

“I am always keen for a challenge and the Navy definitely does not disappoint in this aspect either.”

RIMPAC involves 27 nations, 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel. The five-week exercise runs until 4 August, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The New Zealand Defence Force has sent Te Kaha, the Littoral Warfare Unit (shallow water operations), Air Surveillance and Reconnaissance Force, Command Task Force 176, New Zealand National Support Element, and a light infantry platoon.

RIMPAC will present lots of challenges and opportunities to learn, ASCS Olthuis says.

“It presents us with the opportunity to practise and familiarise ourselves with other naval vessels, their systems and operation and, of course, other naval cultures. Overall, the exercise helps with the integration of navies and the way we operate.

“My role is to learn and perform the requirements of my trade in the exercises we partake in, and help the ship perform on the world stage.”

Te Kaha’s Commanding Officer, Commander (CDR) Steve Lenik, says RIMPAC is a great training opportunity for his crew.

“A large exercise such as RIMPAC is a fantastic opportunity for my ship’s company to train for the broad spectrum of maritime tasks that Te Kaha might be asked to undertake as part of a coalition,” CDR Lenik says. “This exercise will help Te Kaha contribute to a secure and stable Pacific and the sea lanes connecting it to our global trading partners.”

RNZN Maritime Component Commander, Commodore (CDRE) Jim Gilmour says RIMPAC helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.

“About 70 per cent of the world is water, 80 per cent of the world’s population lives on or near a coast, and 90 per cent of international commerce moves by sea. Capable maritime forces help ensure stability and prosperity around the world, and RIMPAC helps participating nations develop these capabilities. Our role is to protect our interests at sea,” said CDRE Gilmour, who is playing a key role in RIMPAC, commanding the amphibious taskforce of 13 ships from the taskforce flagship USS America.


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This page was last reviewed on 27 July 2016.