The Navy’s Sea Sprite helicopter makes its final approach before landing in Ruawai

High flying visit for Ruawai

by Andy Bryenton

Ruawai College students began the school year with a visit from a combat-capable, fully operational Sea Sprite SH-2 GI helicopter, dropping in out of the blue sky to land on their school’s helipad.

The visit, by a crew of highly trained navy officers, was a prize for the school won by 12-year-old student Nina Partridge, as part of a nationwide competition to graphically design a cover for the navy’s magazine. The theme, of bicultural cooperation, is an appropriate one as our armed forces personnel gathered to celebrate Waitangi Day last Thursday. Nina’s design did not win the top accolade, but it was highly commended enough for the navy to deploy both helicopter and crew to meet Ruawai’s students.

At a special assembly, students asked the team of jumpsuited officers about the nature of modern warfare and training, with many expressing an interest in joining the armed forces upon graduation. Questions ranged from the tactical, on the specific weapons and techniques used in boarding actions, to the political, who are the navy deployed against in modern times, and the personal, with the navy servicepeople expressing the fact that they find the comradeship and opportunity to help in humanitarian crises the most rewarding parts of the job. They also pointed out that this very chopper, from Whenuapai’s Six Squadron, had been involved in apprehending drug smugglers on the high seas in the Indian Ocean.

“We’re proud to welcome the navy here today, and it’s all thanks to Nina’s efforts,” said Ruawai College principal Raeleen Harré.

“She’s just one of our students who is a high achiever; we like to say that for a small school we certainly punch above our weight!”

The proud educators and students of Ruawai enjoyed a field-side meet and greet with the officers of Six Squadron before performing a thunderous haka of welcome, as one group of warriors to another in olden times.

Ruawai College has its own helipad due to the fundraising efforts of locals, who constructed it to assist the Northland Rescue Helicopter in times of emergency.