Lieutenant Benjamin Flight has just taken command of the Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Taupo.
29 September 2017
As a teenager at college, Benjamin Flight became accustomed to the discipline required to train for more than an hour at a time, 11 times each week.
Lieutenant Flight, who has just taken command of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) ship HMNZS Taupo, grew up in Rotorua and attended Rotorua Lakes High School.
He took humanities subjects and was interested in history, especially military history – one of his grandfathers served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War – but he was more interested in sports like rowing, running, soccer and tennis.
“My main sport throughout high school was rowing,” he said.
He won several national rowing titles, including the national under-17 double-scull title in 2007. He was selected for the North Island under-18 team but he had just begun training as a new recruit with the RNZN so didn’t compete.
That rowing training served him well for a career in the RNZN, he said.
“It taught me to work for a goal and that training was the key to succeeding.”
He joined the RNZN in 2009 as a direct entry straight out of college, and began Officer of the Watch training. He also did the first year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Auckland and continues to study part-time.
A year later he was part of a five-month deployment on HMNZS Te Kaha, to Asia and around the Pacific.
“We went to Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, and then to Canada for the Canadian Navy’s 100th celebrations, including a fleet review and city parades in Victoria, BC,” he said. “From there we visited the west coast of the United States, becoming the first NZ ship to visit the continental US in 25 years.”
Lieutenant Flight qualified as an Officer of the Watch in 2014 – becoming expert in duties such as ensuring the safety of the ship from collision and grounding, running the ship’s routine, and being the captain’s representative on the bridge.
In early 2014 he joined HMNZS Te Mana for the second half of her deployment to the Middle East, including anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.
He has also spent a year on HMNZS Wellington as a junior trainee and boarding officer on Southern Ocean patrols for Operation Castle and during fisheries patrols in the South Pacific, and was a navigation officer on Inshore Patrol Vessels HMZNS Hawea and Rotoiti for 10 months total while on fisheries and customs patrols around New Zealand.
Last year he finished an 18-month training exchange with the Royal Australian Navy that involved six months of shore-based warfare training at HMAS Watson, in Sydney, followed by a year on the Anzac class frigate HMAS Ballarat.
“The exchange with the Australian Navy was one of the highlights so far, doing the same job but in a different environment and with a different navy,” he said. “In HMAS Ballarat I was involved in the multinational Exercise RIMPAC out of Hawaii.
“At the end of last year I did Command training and then was based in Fiji from April to July this year as liaison officer for Operation Wasawasa, supporting HMNZS Hawea as it carried out maritime surveillance.”
Now, at 26, he has taken command of Inshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Taupo.
“It is exciting to be taking command and rewarding to know that the Navy places trust in me to command,” he said.
“It also comes with a bit of nerves, noting the step up the role will be and the demands it might place on me. However, I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Taupo’s first job under his command would be to reactivate from a reduced activity period to be readied to go back to sea, he said.
“We will then move across to Auckland for the On Water Boat Show, then spend the rest of the year partaking in Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 as part of the opposition force, followed by hosting the Officer of the Watch Bravo course on board, which introduces the concepts of navigation, the international rules for the prevention of collision at sea, meteorology, ship handling, and bridge resource management.
“Next year we will do another Bravo course, and resource and border protection operations around New Zealand.”
The RNZN has fulfilled its early promise for Lieutenant Flight – when he joined he wanted an active, interesting job with overseas travel.
“I like the Navy for the variety that comes with the job, doing different and exciting things,” he said.
“I also like the trust and responsibility that the Navy gives people, including those who are quite young. This job has afforded great opportunities.”