FAQs

When making such a big decision, like choosing the career path you want to take, there are always lots of questions you will have. Listed here are some of the most frequently asked ones - you can also filter them by category. 
 

If these don’t answer your query then give us a call on 0800 1 FORCE and we will be happy to help.
 

What skills will I learn in the different trades?

The Defence Force offers a variety of both civilian and military-based skills for each trade. For example, if you joined the Army as a plumber you would first learn how to complete domestic trade work within a camp environment, just as a civilian plumber would, before learning how to provide the same services in a field situation. We place particular emphasis upon developing initiative and problem-solving skills.  The same could be said of a chef in the Navy or an avionics technician in the Air Force.

Do I get a choice of where I will be posted?

Although your posting preferences (role and location) will be met wherever possible, this must be balanced with organisational needs, so you may be required to fill an urgent, specialist or operational role regardless of your preference. Each Service has a career management branch through which your posting preferences, longer term career prospects and personal situation will be taken into consideration.

The posting cycle is generally every 2-3 years and you must be prepared to change jobs and/or location. Due to operational and administrative issues, there are times when postings will be cut short.

Depending on the length and location of the posting and your personal situation, you may choose not to move your family. If you post to a job away from your family in most circumstances the military will pay for you to travel home periodically.

Is my employment as a Reservist protected by law?

Yes. The Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973 (VEPA) allows Reserve Forces personnel to perform their military duties without risking their normal employment and entitlements.

Where will my training take place?

Where you'll do your initial training depends on your chosen trade and Service – on the North Shore in Auckland, if you join the Navy; in Waiouru, in the central North Island, if you join the Army; and in Woodbourne, near Blenheim, if you join the Air Force.  Specialist training can happen in any number of places in New Zealand or overseas.

Can I attend evening social events off base after work?

We believe passionately in providing an excellent work/life balance, and the hours you work will be similar to any role in civilian life, with most of your weekends free. Of course if you’re on exercise, on operations, or responding to a critical situation, then you will need to be flexible about this.

Downtime can be spent however you wish. You might want to socialise on base with your friends, and you can invite your civilian friends on base as long as they are escorted at all times. You might just want to get away from the base and visit family, or go into town for a night out.

There are gyms and swimming pools for exercise and recreation, and bars to relax in. If you need a bit of peace and quiet for study or reading, there’s a well-stocked library. There is a shop and café, hobby huts and many clubs for you to join. This could be anything from cycling to ski-ing to Kapa Haka.

As an enlisted service member it is important that your personal conduct both on and off duty is responsible, respectful and appropriate. If you are likely to be consuming alcohol, we encourage our personnel to drink responsibly, organise safe and sober travel home after a night out, and to look out for each other’s safety and well-being. 

As a Reservist will I be made to go on a deployment or can I refuse?

No. There is no compulsion to deploy. However the encouraged expectation of Reserves is the willingness of individuals to deploy and support operational service.

I play sport at a competitive level. Can I keep playing while I'm in the Defence Force?

If you're playing top-level sports of any kind, we will usually be able to ensure you get the opportunity to compete. We have sportsmen and women who compete at national and international level, as well as fulfilling their regular duties.  The drive to win and teamwork are core to the Defence Force and so we encourage all personnel to get involved in team sports whenever they can.

Can I change jobs once I’m in the Defence Force?

Initial Service and trade selection is really important, and it pays to do your homework so that you make an informed decision as both you and the Defence Force will be investing a lot of time, energy and money over the course of your career.

Due to career progression and regular posting cycles, you will be changing jobs every couple of years so there are always opportunities for new challenges, to gain new skills, and to live and work in different places with different people.

In some circumstances it is possible to change trade once you’re in the Defence Force. However, trade and Service changes can be a lengthy process and will depend on a number of factors, so it is not guaranteed.

You can resign from the Defence Force and typically we require three months notice. However, during times of increased operational activity, or if you are required to complete a Return of Service Obligation, you may be required to continue serving until you have completed your required duties or service period.

Do I have to tell my employer about my Reserve Forces activities?

No. Only you can judge whether or not to tell your employer.

The Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973 makes it an offence for an employer to discriminate against, disadvantage or dismiss an employee or prospective employee for rendering service in the Reserve Forces. Also, no one from the Directorate of Reserve Forces and Youth Development or your unit will contact your employer on your behalf without your prior consent.

To help us provide the support you require we encourage all Reserve Forces personnel to discuss their military service with their employer.

Your employer may be more willing to release you for civil defence or other emergency assistance if they are aware of your Reserve Forces involvement in advance.

I have a mobile phone. Will I be able to use it in the Defence Force?

Mobile phones are allowed in the New Zealand Defence Force, but you are not permitted to use them sometimes, like when on operations or exercise or during parts of your initial training.

Can I keep studying outside the Defence Force?

Yes. You can choose what to do with your free time and if you want to pursue further education you can. If the study is related to your trade, the Defence Force may pay for it or subsidise your course fees. You may even be allowed to spend some work time studying, depending on the course and the demands of your job.

Find out more on our University Study and Education and Training pages, or look up education and training, in the lifestyle and salary section for each Service.

Does my employer have to pay me (a Reservist) while I'm on military leave?

No. Military Leave provisions under the Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973  do not require employers to pay employees on military leave.

We encourage employers to top-up the difference between your civilian pay and your military pay so you do not experience financial hardship while on military leave. Of course, if you use your annual leave your employer does have to pay you while on military training. Check your company’s policy for details, or contact us for further options.

Will I be able to stay in touch with family and friends during my training?

While you're undertaking your training, you will be given plenty of time to remain in contact with family and friends by mail or pay telephone. 

Do I need to wear my uniform if I go to University?

Depending on which scheme you are studying under, if you are an enlisted Regular Force member of the Defence Force you may have to wear uniform when attending lectures, tutorials and other formal occasions like graduation.

At any point in your career, if you are attending workshops, courses or lectures in a professional capacity then you will most likely be expected to wear uniform, but this will be up to command or personal discretion. 

What do I sign when I become a Reservist?

Successful Reserve applicants sign both an Offer of Service and an Attestation Form (legal document that means you agree to abide by and be subject to Service Law).

Do I always have to do physical training?

New Zealand Defence Force requires its personnel to maintain a high level of physical fitness. While we won’t always mandate what training you do, you would be required to keep your fitness up to a good standard throughout your career so you will need to keep doing some form of physical training.

I have long hair. Will I have to get a haircut when I join the Defence Force?

That depends on how long your hair is when you join. But in general for women: Short hair should be 15mm above the collar if you have a bob-style haircut Long hair should be tied up so that it sits 15mm above the collar Ponytails can only be worn during personal time in the barracks and when not in uniform No hair should show on the forehead when a beret or hat is worn. For men: Hair should be no longer than 15mm above the collar, and no shorter than a number 2 comb haircut Sideburns must be neatly-trimmed and not extend below the middle of the ear.

Will I be allowed to keep in touch with my family and friends?

Family, friends and partners are very important. It’s entirely up to you whether you maintain your existing relationships or socialise mainly with your military friends and colleagues.

When you are deployed overseas, we make sure that you can keep in regular contact with family and friends and are kept up-to-date with national news and events, especially if you are in remote areas.

During your initial recruit training you will have limited access to your mobile phone and pay telephone, and regular access to mail.

Will I (as a Reservist) continue to accrue my annual leave while I'm on military leave?

Yes. Being granted military leave provisions under the Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973  means that your normal employment is viewed as uninterrupted and you are entitled to accrue your normal annual leave entitlement.

If a special holiday, such as a public holiday, falls within the period of protected military leave there is no requirement for your employer either to pay or accredit that special holiday to you.

How much leave will I be entitled to?

The annual leave entitlement is 25 days per year for all personnel. In addition to annual leave there are 25 other categories of leave that you can apply for. These include study leave, representational leave, household removal leave, sick leave and jury service leave (to name but a few). The most common form of additional leave, besides statutory holidays, is stand-down leave and equivalent leave (for working weekends and statutory holidays).

Can I wear my wedding ring, jewellery or piercings in the Defence Force?

You are allowed to wear a plain signet ring, engagement ring and/or wedding ring. Only women are allowed to wear earrings, which should be one pair of plain studs only. No other body piercing is allowed. It is recommended that you have a sturdy, waterproof wristwatch.

What education and skills do I need to have to apply?

We ask that at a minimum, you’ve gained at least ten credits at level one in both English and Maths. However some careers will require additional qualifications. We’re happy to give you the specific requirements for your chosen career – just call us on 0800 1FORCE. In addition, you will also need to be a competent English speaker.

Entry into the Defence Force is quite competitive and so you should try to get as high marks at school as you can.

I have a criminal record. Can I join the Defence Force?

The Defence Force has a high dependence on trust and use of technical equipment, in some cases weapons, and looks for recruits who are trustworthy and reliable. For this reason, all applicants undergo a police records check and any convictions are assessed on the on the severity of the offence.

How much self-discipline is involved?
The New Zealand Defence Force expects a high standard of personal conduct, physical fitness, dress and discipline. It might take a bit of getting used to at first, but once you settle into the routine of Defence Force life, your confidence and self-discipline will allow you to handle whatever we throw at you.
I am not a New Zealand citizen. Can I join the New Zealand Defence Force?

Applicants must be legally entitled to work in New Zealand and obtain and maintain the required level of NZ Government security clearance for the position applied for.

For trades that require CV clearance you must be:

  • A NZ Citizen/ NZ Residence class visa holder, who has resided in this country continuously for at least the last five years, OR
  • A NZ Citizen/ NZ Residence class visa holder, who has resided continuously in one or more of the following countries for the last five years: either Australia, Canada, NZ, the United Kingdom (UK) or the United States of America (USA); and a background history that is verifiable and can be assessed as appropriate by the NZ Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) towards a recommendation of suitability for a security clearance at this level.
     

For trades that require SV clearance you must be:

  • Most preferably a NZ citizen who has resided continuously in this country for the last 10 years, OR
  • A NZ citizen, who has resided continuously in one or more of the following countries for the last 10 years: either Australia, Canada, NZ, UK or the USA; and has a background history that is verifiable and can be assessed as appropriate by the NZSIS towards a recommendation of suitability for a security clearance at a higher level.

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