Louisa Thyne

Sailor of the Year, motivator and fitness fanatic

Leading Physical Training Instructor Louisa Thyne, worked two gruelling years in a Christchurch restaurant as a kitchen hand, dish washer and waitress. Louisa’s mum suggested she look at a career in the Navy, and in 2008 she joined up initially as a Chef. But her passion has always been fitness and she was driven to become a Physical Training Instructor (PTI). She is thriving in her role, and her passion and commitment is so evident that she was awarded Sailor of the Year in 2013.

Describe your role as a PTI in the Navy?

I’m currently posted to the Leadership Development Group so I’m running all our recruits through the physical training aspects of their Basic Common Training. For almost all of the recruits it’s their first exposure to military fitness, so it’s great working with them.

I love the satisfaction I get from helping people achieve goals that they never thought possible, because six and a half years ago that was me. Standing there thinking I couldn’t do something - if someone had told me back then that this is where I’d be now I wouldn’t have believed them! So my attitude has really changed and now when I see people achieve something they didn’t think was possible, it’s massive. 

What’s it like being away at sea? 

Being away for several months at a time has made me appreciate my friends and family more. But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be in the sense that you can access emails and when you get alongside (into port) you can get a $2 sim card and call them, or skype, from overseas. 

What was your posting on to a Navy frigate like?

Last year I was deployed on the Navy Ship HMNZS TE MANA, we went to sea for seven months to conduct counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden (Coast of Somalia). This was by far the best experience in my career to date.  

People always ask me if I was scared but we had three months of intense training prior to getting to the operational area, so I was confident that if anything happened we were well prepared. My main role onboard was physical training and maintaining good morale for our Ships personnel. Sometimes I had other roles including aft steering, and working as part of the helicopter crew being winched down to other vessels to pick up stores or for sea rescue training. 

What experiences have you had in the Defence Force that you could not have had in any other job? 

I’ve been to so many places and met so many people from different walks of life. Some of the countries I’ve been to include India, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Dubai, Seychelles, Hong Kong, USA, and more. 

When you’re working at sea of course you get down time to explore these places, which is really fun. You also get allowances on top of your regular salary (if you’re deployed overseas you are granted additional pay to make up for the hours spent away from home), so that’s a good benefit of being deployed.

Tell me about becoming ‘Sailor of the Year*’ in 2013?

I was awarded it last year in Mumbai by the Chief of Navy during a medal ceremony. Being recognised of course is really great and I’m proud of myself, but it was unexpected. I love my job and maybe my passion for my job is what people saw in me, but I feel like there are lots of other deserving people in the Defence Force that do awesome jobs. I just happened to be recognised. I’m still Lou and am always going to be Lou! I’m always going to keep on setting challenges and do what I do.

*Sailor of the Year is awarded to the sailor who best demonstrates outstanding professionalism to their job and incredible commitment to the Navy. Their performance and behaviour demonstrate a clear understanding the Navy’s Core Values: Courage, Commitment and Comradeship.