Life is about choices, some we regret, some we’re proud of, some will haunt us forever, but We Are What We Choose To Be!

Sometimes though, during your life there are instances where choices are actually forced upon you and you have no say in it. These can either be a blessing in disguise or totally repugnant of your abilities and are unexpected and life changing.


The latter occurred for me on 22 June 2011 and effected not just me but my entire family. The NZDF’s Civilianisation Project ascertained that my service was no longer required, despite not 2 months earlier them offering me a six year extension and identifying Senior Warrant Officer positions I could fulfil.


It was a tumultuous time, not just for me but for the entire NZDF, I would be correct in saying that we were incosted into what we thought was an environment of a “safe and secure cocoon” career wise, but the Imping(Impacted) process(short name for Civilianisation Project) definitely put paid to that thought.

“What really made it hard for me, and my family, was that I was posted overseas, as the NZDF MS Technical Advisor in Tonga.”

Initially I was given 3 months’ notice, but upon receiving a signal from a friend, an Officer also posted overseas who had also received his notice, I queried why a he and a number of Officers had been given a year and I hadn’t. After much consultation back in NZ, my 3 months was retracted and I was given a year also. Whilst this was greatly appreciated it didn’t soften the blow. As to compound this and being overseas still, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend any of the briefs about the Imping, or any of the support courses that NZDF had set up to help those who were Impacted and transitioning into civilian life. They did though offer to send me on relevant courses on my return, but when I finally did return in Jan 2012 there were none available! And to be honest I was over the whole process and had resided to the fact that I was been booted out!!

“I had never considered the need for a CV and hadn’t done one in 27 years when I initially joined the NZ Army, so having to draft this was something very, very foreign to me.”

Compound that by trying to explain and quantify my military skills into civilian speak, and “promoting” myself was definitely a new aspect to also deal with. We service people don’t look to “flaunt our skills” LOL.

“ I literally applied for 100s of jobs, adapting my CV for each, including spending 2 months in Australia job hunting to no avail”

Initially not cognisant of where I actually stood in the pecking order of civilian life and applying for jobs which I thought were consummate of where I had left the NZDF.

To say I was frustrated was an understatement, as the dominant bread winner in the family with a mortgage and weekly bills the savings were definitely depleting rapidly and the sight of a job were looking more and more distant.

Having to put mortgage payments on hold in order to sustain weekly living a dim light appeared after some 5 months of unemployment. Despite misgivings of the Imping process, I applied for an NZDF Advisory role. I thought I had a great interview with people I knew when serving, only to be rung and told I was unsuccessful, but in the same breath offered a similar role in same environment!! Elation is an understatement.

 That whole transition space for me was a REAL eye opener and something TOTALLY new to me.

“Thinking I had a job for life and getting a shock call from the DCA certainly put paid to that fable!! Whilst there is an underlying tinge of resentment there is also a huge amount of respect for the NZDF and what it has given not just myself but my family,”

hell it now has the services of two of my fours sons, thank god for that cause they aren’t exactly vegetarians!!.  I understand that my personal situation was different from many in the NZDF but it certainly didn’t quell any of the shock and horror effects of transitioning to a new “realm”.

“If anything it has strengthened my resolve and heightened my preparation going forward,”

but yes still burns a deep hole in me from the whole situation!! Whilst you are the owner of your choices, others have the ability to also force their choices on you, impacting your path.

Katharine Holgate