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Kelly Smith’s pride in her work shines through 24 years’ service with the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), and now in her career with Babcock as a Fleet Manager – Support Force.

My defence career started when I joined the RNZN out of school in 1998 as an electronic technician. I worked my way up the ranks and became the first female to become a Petty Officer, and later a Chief Petty Officer Electronic Technician in 2007.

After an exciting career that included numerous deployments, I retired in January 2022 at the rank of Commander, General List Engineer, and was one of two engineers to be both a Weapon and Marine Engineer.

During my career I was lucky to experience some amazing things such as being aboard the first RNZN vessel to go to Vladivostok and the first to visit Ho Chi Minh City in 30 years. For a time, I was posted to Defence HQ in Wellington as the Personal Staff Officer to the Vice Chief of Defence Force and as the Deputy Chief Naval Engineer.

A definite highlight of my career was speaking at a conference in Virginia in the US in 2014 on Damage Control in my role as the Fleet Damage Control Officer within the Maritime Operational Evaluation Team.

This experience pales when compared to the pride of my last sea post on HMNZS Canterbury. It is everyone’s goal when joining the RNZN to be posted to a ship. This is what we joined to do, so any time I have been on ship has been special. Stepping on board HMNZS Canterbury, arguably one of our most well-known, largest ships, as the Engineering Officer was my proudest moment.

It is important for me to feel this pride in and love my work. In my current role at Babcock, I feel as I did during my service. Today, I am responsible for ensuring that the RNZN Support Force is available for operations.

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