Swapping the QMC stripes for a camo uniform

Alumna, Emily Chamberlin attended QMC from 2006 until 2019. After a gap year, she joined the New Zealand Army in July of 2021.

Today, Emily is currently a soldier in the Corps of Royal New Zealand Military Police and will soon join the Royal New Zealand Logistics Regiment later in 2022. She marched out of basic training in Waiouru, in November 2021 and has been training in her respective corps since then.

Hers has been a rather unique and interesting journey since graduating from QMC. While so many of our QMC graduates move on to study at university, there are others that have chosen different pathways and are thriving in the work they are doing. We wanted to know more about Emily’s career, and she kindly answered some of our questions:

Q) What motivated you to work for NZDF?

There are two reasons, and the first is my mother. She is a career diplomat serving New Zealand her entire professional life. I really wanted to be like her but didn’t want to follow the exact same path. Still wanting to represent and serve the country I call my home, I always dreamed of joining the army.

The second reason is a little cheesier and something I am thankful to QMC for. Growing up in a school with traditions, uniforms, and high standards helped me to develop discipline and positive routines. I wanted to carry that on in my future and thought that the Army would be a great place to make that happen.

Is that something you planned on doing while you were at school? What did you want to do when you were 15?

I have wanted to join the army for as long as I can remember. I remember during tutor time everyone was applying to university and they would ask me “Which university are you going to apply to?” And I would, without fail, respond with “The Army”. I never really saw myself continuing my studies because I felt like I was a very practical learner and always wanted to be moving.

What does your average day look like now?

My average day has changed a lot since graduating from basic training. During my four months in Waiouru there was a strict schedule of constant running, learning, and physical/mental challenges. Once out of basic and living in barracks my day has quietened down a bit. Since I’m still training my day usually consists of PT (Physical Training), weapons training, classroom learning and much more. No day is ever the same, which I love. When we knock off for the day, we are free to do whatever we please as long as we are ready to go the next morning.

What has been your career highlight to date?

Definitely graduating from basic training. I was really put to the test and there were times I thought I wouldn’t make it and wouldn’t be able to march out with my fellow recruits. The feeling of my Platoon Sergeant saying to us all, “You made it” was, and remains, the best feeling ever.

What are some misconceptions that young women might have about working in defence?

To be honest, women are still a minority within the Defence Force and there is no sugar-coating it. Sometimes you will feel like you don’t belong because the males are taller, often fitter and certain activities can come easier to them. But that is also a good thing! Being able to prove yourself (even though you shouldn’t have to) is a great feeling. For me, being a 5'1 female, it was tough to keep up in some activities, but, in a team, everyone has strengths and weaknesses and there is always a soldier by your side to help when you need it.

There are some people that still think that women don’t belong in the army. To that I say: Everyone belongs in the army if they put in the mahi.

Would you recommend this pathway to others? Why?

I really do! Any branch of the Defence Force is a great pathway. Full of courses, qualifications, and lifelong friends. There are seemingly endless courses you could pursue, and those qualifications can also carry through to civilian life which is such a bonus. Who wouldn’t want a career full of camaraderie and a sense of purpose?

What’s next for you?

I plan to stay in the Defence Force for the majority of my adult life. The good thing about the army is that you can change service (army to navy or air force) as well as change your trade within the service. This way, once you feel fulfilled in your respective trade then you can change to a different one to start a new adventure! I have only been in for a short while, but I have enjoyed my time so far. I don’t feel like I will leave any time soon.

What is your favourite memory from QMC?

That’s a hard question, there have been quite a few. Mine would probably be leading my house in the whole house song during House Music in 2019. As a Junior School girl going to house meetings, I would always dream of standing where my past Berwick Prefects stood, so being able to make that dream a reality was a crazy feeling I’ll never forget.