25 June 2018
It was an historic occasion on Friday night when Lieutenant Commander Zoe Brangwin became the first female Commanding Officer of HMNZS Pegasus in Christchurch.
At a formal Change of Command ceremony at the Christchurch headquarters, Lieutenant Commander Brangwin took the helm of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Volunteer Reserve division, formed in 1928, from Lieutenant Commander Paul Smith, who had led Pegasus since 2013.
While acknowledging that there’s a first time for everything, Lieutenant Commander Brangwin was just proud that the organisation had shown faith in her skills and ability.
“It’s certainly an honour to command,” she said following the ceremony. “It’s something I have been working towards for some time and I believe it was my mix of Regular Force, Reserve and civilian experience that gives me the diverse skills and perspective needed to lead Pegasus into the future.”
Lieutenant Commander Brangwin, 42, was raised in Christchurch and joined the RNZN in 1996 as a Seaman Officer, after spending time as a sea cadet at TS Steadfast.
During her five years of service in the RNZN she served on RNZN ships HMNZS Waikato, Monowai, Wellington, Canterbury, Resolution and Te Mana. She left the RNZN in 2000 to travel and work overseas.
Lieutenant Commander Smith, who had followed Lieutenant Commander Brangwin’s Reserve career since she arrived back in Christchurch and joined Pegasus in 2004, said he was confident that the division was in a very safe and capable pair of hands.
“I’ve always been impressed with the value she’s added to the division,” he said. “Not just the seamanship aspect, which has been immense, but also the commercial acumen she brings will continue to be a real asset to Pegasus.”
Lieutenant Commander Brangwin also works full-time as a Safety Investigations Manager for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Directorate of Safety.
“I know it must look as though I’m a 24/7 military woman, but I’m just one of the many serving NZDF personnel who also volunteer for Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves,” she said.
Discussions about naval strategy and tactics are commonplace around the kitchen table at home because her husband, Mason, is a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve.
“We haven’t quite got our children into sailor uniforms yet but Tim and Sofia can certainly see that a career in the Navy can take you places,” she said.
Reservists, comprising military personnel and civilian support staff, contribute significantly to the NZDF mission of protecting New Zealand’s interests and providing support in times of natural and other disasters.
HMNZS Pegasus is one of four Naval Reserve units in New Zealand, which have about 220 members. The division’s role is to contribute to the RNZN by providing competent Reserve personnel fit for service.
The Change of Command ceremony was officiated by the Deputy Chief of Navy, Commodore Mat Williams, and attended by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Lieutenant Commander Brangwin was well supported by the ship’s company, cadets from TS Godley, family and friends.
Lieutenant Commander Smith will continue as Commanding Officer of HMNZS Toroa, the RNZN Volunteer Reserve Division in Dunedin.