12 March 2020
A late decision not to go to university after high school has led to a challenging role in the New Zealand Army and plenty of deployments overseas for Kapiti man Zeke Lytollis.
“I wanted to do something different and dynamic, and I needed a break from the classroom,” said Staff Sergeant Lytollis, who had attended Kapiti College.
He joined the Army in Wellington, did his basic training at Waiouru, and then was drawn to the movement operations role.
“I was posted to 5 Movements Company at Linton Military Camp in 2008, and then to Burnham in Canterbury in 2009.
“Once you become qualified, no two days have to be the same. One day I might be providing aerial delivery to Royal New Zealand Air Force No. 40 Squadron loading to the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, and then follow that up by mobilising and deploying an Army battalion group overseas.”
His first overseas deployment was spending four months based in Darwin with the Royal Australian Air Force, followed by six weeks in East Timor.
“I was deployed to Darwin to support the Australian-led mission to Timor, as the national support element representative for the New Zealand Army,” he said. “Mostly that involved facilitating flights of freight and personnel into and out of theatre.”
This has been followed by deployments to Antarctica, the United States, the Middle East, Malaysia and Australia.
“The highlight was seven months in the Middle East in 2015, with responsibility for leading New Zealand Defence Force movements on the ground there,” he said.
“I enjoy problem solving, and in an operational environment you really get to test your abilities.
“Often the demand is high and there is a lot of pressure, so you really have to sink or swim. Being challenged like that constantly pushes me to be better.”
Staff Sergeant Lytollis has been honing his skills recently at an exercise at RNZAF Base Ohakea that incorporates tactical flying, night flying with night vision goggles and airdrops.
The training focused on flying into areas a conventional aircraft would avoid, such as battlefields or countries hit by a natural disaster, where power to airports could be out or roads too damaged for supplies to reach residents.
Airdrops are a capability the RNZAF has used many times, with the most recent example in New Zealand coming after the Kaikoura earthquake, when a C-130 Hercules dropped loads of water to residents because the roads were impassable.
Staff Sergeant Lytollis worked together with other personnel to develop the drop programme, which detailed what type and volume of loads needed to be airdropped and when.
“Once we determine the minimum requirements for the load we calculate the amount it will crush to absorb the impact, the amount of forces each restraint will be exposed to during loading, flight and descent, and the centre of balance to ensure no loads are susceptible to ‘flipping’ or malfunctioning,” he said.
“Although maths can help, mostly it’s about understanding the process of aerial delivery as a whole, and being a keen, open learner.”