Ordinary Chef Tia Rickards
28 April 2017
The deployment of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Inshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Hawea to Fiji this week is special for Ordinary Chef (OCH) Tia Rickards for two reasons – it marks the first time that she is going on an operation overseas and it will bring her back to her mother’s home country.
“I hope to get my sea legs on this trip and learn more about how a ship runs,” said OCH Rickards, who is one of the three chefs on board Hawea and also forms part of the ship’s medical emergency team.
“I was very surprised when I found out I was going to be posted to Hawea, but even more excited when I heard that we were deploying to Fiji.”
The New Zealand Defence Force has sent Hawea to Fiji to help patrol the South Pacific country’s territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zone over the next six months. The patrols will be combined operations between Fiji’s Department of Fisheries, the Fijian Navy and personnel from New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries.
OCH Rickards said she was looking forward to working alongside the Fijians during her three-month deployment to the South Pacific country.
“Like the rest of the ship’s company, I’m looking forward to learning more about the Fijian culture. I also hope to enjoy the sunny climate and to have opportunities to explore the islands,” she said.
Rickards’ mother hails from Levuka town in the Fijian island of Ovalau. Although she understands Fijian, she cannot speak it fluently.
“My family was so happy when I told them I was going to Fiji. Our relatives can’t wait to see me,” she said.
Encouraged by relatives who are serving or have served previously in the Navy, OCH Rickards enlisted in 2016 after graduating from Te Kuiti High School, where she was the head girl.
“Joining the Navy is a childhood dream,” she said. “I often went to Whangaparaoa Base as a child to stay with my uncle, who ran the base there. I would watch the new recruits and thought I’d like to try that someday.”