From Kotemāori to the skies: 'I bloody love my career'

Leading Aircraftman Nikara Ross, a former Wairoa College pupil from Kotemāori, has visited 10 countries in her short Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) career.

But while travel was the big attraction in joining the services, little matched the experience of marshalling a massive Australian C-17 military transport plane in the heat of Honiara, giving her another reason to love her job.

“Everyone has a different career,” she told Defence Force media. “And I bloody love mine.”

Her primary role as a logistics specialist in air movements is to help with the movement of people and goods, put to good use in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara this week as the New Zealand Defence Force supported the Pacific Games.

Ross joined the RNZAF in 2019, realising a childhood dream. She attended a Youth Development Unit programme while at high school and found basic training to be “unsurprising and fairly straightforward”.

While the training was mostly based around the army, and the pathway for most tended to be towards the army or navy, she preferred the air force.

Back home in Kotemāori, travel tended to involve catching three different buses to get to school, or being driven there by her nana. Since then she has visited five different countries in a week.

She hopes to train for an aircrew role, as either a steward or loadmaster. She also wants to give back to her community and help other Ngāti Pāhauwera whānau and others by posting to YDU and then Defence Recruiting.

She believes everyone has something to teach and that her team achieves its best by “thriving on each other’s strengths and working on each other’s weaknesses”.

Working with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at the Pacific Games has been a career highlight, especially when she marshalled an arriving RAAF C-17 with RNZAF NH90 helicopters on board.