6 November 2018
Excelling as part of a team working on the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Frigate Systems Upgrade has won Leading Combat Systems Specialist Alicia Wall the RNZN Sailor of the Year 2018 award.
Leading Combat Systems Specialist Wall’s success working in a team pioneering the Operation Room support systems of the upgrade is built on a background of hard work and determination and a close extended family, where service in the RNZN features strongly.
Her father, retired Warrant Officer Electronics Technician Dave Wall, served in the RNZN from 1984 to 2011 and her mother worked at the Devonport Naval Base for Babcocks.
“The Navy is in my blood,” Leading Combat Systems Specialist Wall, 27, said. “I’m the middle one of three girls and Dad always wanted at least one of us to follow in his footsteps and that was me.
“I grew up in the Navy community here at Bayswater, born and bred in Navy housing, with a community of Navy families, and this provided a great platform for my growth and upbringing.”
Her energetic outlook on life is reflected in the many roles she juggles, from being a key part of the Mission Support cell developing new systems to support the Fleet Systems Upgrade, to caring for her son, mentoring new recruits, playing touch rugby, coaching softball and spending time with family.
She credits her supportive family and friends for enabling her to do what she does and take care of her son too.
“I can only fit all this in because I have an awesome family and friends support group and flexibility from my Chief, who is happy to assist in my growth within the RNZN.”
Determination was a big part of her journey with the RNZN from the start. After enlisting in 2009 she injured her hip in basic training and had to pull out, re-joining in early 2011 for basic training and branch training.
“My first deployment was to Southeast Asia in 2013. I had a wonderful four months on HMNZS Te Mana with a workup out of Australia and visited many ports, including in China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. It was an awesome trip – we were in a different port every weekend.”
In Guam she was promoted to Able Rate and after six weeks at home she was away again, to Australia on Te Mana for the Australian 100th Fleet Review.
“We then headed for the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy patrols and I was a Surface and Air Picture Operator and supporting the boarding teams.”
The seven-month deployment on Te Mana was one of the highlights so far, she said.
“It built me up as an operator and was a turning point in my career. It was very real compared to exercises.”
After further deployments, on HMNZS Otago in the Pacific Islands and on HMNZS Te Kaha to Singapore and Australia, she went on maternity leave in 2016, returning to work in July 2017 to do her leading rates development course – the last one that she needed for promotion to leading hand in September 2017.
“I was promoted to Leading Hand by my Dad and Chief Petty Officer Combat System Specialist (CPOCSS) Waters – that was very special. CPOCSS Waters was my Chief on my first two deployments on the Anzac ships and has played a huge part in my career,” she said. “He pushed me through the courses and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He played a huge part in getting me to leading hand, along with my Dad and our family.”
Leading Combat Systems Specialist Wall Alicia was then posted to the Mission Support Cell of the Naval Operational Support Unit to work on developing the systems behind the Frigate Systems Upgrade.
“It’s interesting and important work and I’ve learned heaps, especially as I am going to be operating that system once the Frigate Systems Upgrade on Te Kaha is complete in October next year,” she said. “It gives me solid background knowledge of how the system works and is good for my career.”
She has worked with the Canadian Navy and Lockheed Martin, building relationships and learning from them about the new frigate system that is being installed in HMNZS Te Kaha in Canada.
“I’m looking forward to seeing it work – it makes the long hours in Canada and at Mission Support Cell worthwhile,” she said.
“I’ve seen it grow and know how far we have come in the past year with everything falling into place and we’re able to see the end result more clearly now.”
Time management was key for work and play, she said.
“People say I don’t say no to anything, but that is because I enjoy what I do,” she said. “I work hard in mission support and my other roles, but I wouldn’t be able to do any of it without the team of people who support me. They help me to ensure the work gets done.”