Aviation refueller Michael Vermeer is relishing the challenges provided by life in the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
11 April 2017
Dunedin man Michael Vermeer joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) to get top-quality training and the chance to travel and he hasn’t been disappointed.
Aircraftman Vermeer, 21, joined the Air Force in 2015, after attending Kings High School. He is now an aviation refueller, whose role is to carry out fuel quality control to ensure RNZAF aircraft have clean, dry fuel, and to refuel aircraft as required.
He completed basic training at Base Woodbourne, near Blenheim, and then was posted to Base Ohakea, near Palmerston North, where he did a six-month fuel introduction course and gained heavy vehicle licences. He was then posted to Base Whenuapai, where his training continues.
“One of the great things about being in the New Zealand Defence Force is that we get paid to train, so I have been able to avoid incurring the debt that going to university would have entailed,” Vermeer said.
While he is based in Auckland, he has just spent two weeks at Woodbourne, taking part in Exercise Wiseowl, which involved providing support as 10 trainee pilots from 14 Squadron learned solo formation flying in the RNZAF’s new T-6C Texan II aircraft.
“My role in the exercise was to carry out fuel control tests daily and operate the new MAN refuelling tanker to deliver aviation fuel to the Texans,” he said.
“This was the first time I have worked with the new refuelling vehicle. Such modern equipment makes our job easier and allows for safer and more efficient refuelling.
“The exercise was also a good opportunity to improve my skills driving on unfamiliar roads, because we had to travel to Christchurch to fill our tankers.”
He was the first member of his family to enlist in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and wasn’t sure what to expect but is happy with his career choice.
“The Air Force has provided me with so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have got in other careers,” he said.
In 2015 he participated in Southern Katipo, a multinational field training exercise held in the South Island. He played the role of a refugee from a fictional south-west Pacific country that had requested international intervention to restore law and order.
“I was evacuated on the HMNZS Canterbury, which gave me a good opportunity to see how the three services in the NZDF operate together,” he said.
He particularly enjoys working with the NZDF’s international counterparts.
“We as a trade regularly work with the Australian Defence Force in annual exercises in Australia,” he said. “We also work with other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada on operations and exercises.”
Southern Katipo is being held again this year and this time he is expecting to be deployed with his trade.
“This will be a good opportunity to engage with other military forces and further develop how we operate.”
The highlight of his career so far has been travelling to this year’s Avalon Air Show in Melbourne on the RNZAF’s Boeing 757.
“It was good to see many other aircraft types that we could possibly come into contact with in future deployments,” he said.
While RNZAF refuellers deploy regularly overseas to operations and exercises, Vermeer has his sights set on one particular posting.
“The ultimate for me would be to deploy to Antarctica as part of the NZDF team,” he said.
While only in the early stages of his career, Vermeer would have no hesitation recommending others to join the NZDF.
“It is a privilege to be able to give something back to New Zealand by serving in the NZDF,” he said.