27 March 2019
Residents of Bulls may have noticed that a flower van called Ferdinand that was doing business at a local park had been missing in action in the past two weeks.
The reason was that owner Rene’e Mudgway, who is a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Reservist dental hygienist, had been taking part in an NZDF dental outreach in Hawke’s Bay.
During the exercise, which ran from 11-22 March, New Zealand Army Sergeant Mudgway was part of a 30-member NZDF contingent that worked with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board to raise oral health awareness in the region by providing oral health education and treatment.
The outreach, called Exercise Wisdom Tooth, provided oral health care and treatment and visited schools to teach children about the importance of good oral health, Sergeant Mudgway said.
““It was great to connect with the community. It was also great to catch up and work with other members of the NZDF’s health team,” she said.
Sergeant Mudgway, who is originally from the coastal village of Houhora, about 30 minutes north of Kaitaia, said enlisting in the military was a leap of faith that led to a rewarding career.
“Service life sounded like a good adventure so my 17-year-old self took a chance,” she said.
Despite having two elder sisters in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), Sergeant Mudgway enlisted in the New Zealand Army in 1998, a few months after graduating from Kaitaia College.
“I wanted to pave my own path, so I ticked the green box instead of the blue,” she said.
Initially she worked as a telecommunications operator and deployed to Bougainville and East Timor.
However, in 2004 she became a dental assistant and joined the Royal New Zealand Dental Corps. Three years later, the Army supported her in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in oral health from University of Otago.
“I’ve had so many amazing opportunities during my career – from deployments to a trade change to three years at university.”
The NZDF also supported her and her husband, who is an RNZAF Reservist, through flexible work opportunities as they balanced their busy work/life schedules, she said.