Michael James Te Hurunui Hohapata begun at Trident in the first intake of students in 1973 after completing his schooling at Allandale and Whakatane Intermediate. “In my last year at Whakatane Intermediate all the talk was around this brand new High School that we were going to go to called Trident High School. It really looked state of the art for a school in Whakatane. The first day came around in 1973 when we created history and we were about to shape the history of the High School by being the foundation pupils. What we as a group were about to achieve was something that really never entered our little minds way back then but as the years went by, we knew we had created something really special and the bond we had as a school was unbreakable. It was very exciting for us all, the school smelt new, we had these brand new uniforms and teachers and we were about to commence a great adventure into the future”. While our school has changed and grown over the years, the bond that our students, teachers and Trident community has remains.
Like many students, Michael remembers one teacher as being particularly influential in his education - Mr Brunetti - the school rugby coach. He is remembered as being “very loud and spoke in riddles of which we had no idea what he was talking about”. Mr Brunetti focussed his coaching on the team making the decisions and Michael says he gave them confidence to be creative in their play. Michael captained the team during the first year along with Guy Rawson. The team also had some great players like the Thrupp cousins and another great player who went on to become a great All Black - Arthur Stone. Mr Brunetti inspired Michael and the team to believe they could be the best if they put their minds to it. He was very inspirational to all boys in his team.
Michaels pathway into a successful Navy career began with a fortuitous moment - during class he noticed a group of military recruiters and went to investigate further. After initially not being overly interested, the principal Mr Heney strongly encouraged him to apply. After applying for the Navy where he would be able to see the world, the application had slipped his mind for a few months until he was requested in Mr Heney’s office where he was given a letter of acceptance to the Royal New Zealand Navy. Blown away by this surprise, he eventually worked out how to break it to his parents and at the start of 1976 he joined the Navy as a 17 year old Junior Seaman. After completing 3 months initial training learning the life and history of the Royal New Zealand Navy he knew he had found himself in a whole different world. “It was just like you saw in a movie where the drill sergeant stands about a centimetre away from you yelling his lungs out. You were taught how to wash, iron and fold your uniforms the Navy way. Every week you had a kit muster inspection and if it wasn’t up to the required standard out the window it went...it was funny watching your bunk mates clothes going out the window. Luckily enough I never had to endure that, I took to the life of a sailor like a duck does to water. I was in my element.” In the Navy recruits are given a serial number, which is your service number for life. You never ever forget what that number is. Some guys have it tattooed on their bodies...I didn’t need to. My number was Q21917.
Moving through the ranks, Michael was promoted to an Ordinary seaman before qualifing in his specialist field as a Radar Plotter (identifying unknown aircraft and ships within your danger zones and whether they were threats or friendly). During his time in the Navy Michael was further promoted to Able Seaman (ABSea) and Leading Seaman (LSea) and worked to fulfill his desire to travel - having been to Australia on many occasions, Fiji, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hawaii, USA, China, Noumea, Korea, Stewart Island, all the South Pacific Islands, Tonga, Rarotonga, Samoa, Pago Pago, Aitu, Aitutaki, United Kingdom.
Michael managed to bring passion of sports into the Navy where he excelled, so much that he was asked to try out to become a Physical Training Instructor (PE Teacher). To become a PE instructor in the RNZN was deemed to be the pinnacle of a career, so it was a great honour! His dreams came true when he was accepted into the Physical Training Instructor (PTI) course in 1982 and completed the 9 month course in Christchurch before he was promoted to Leading Physical Training Instructor. He was over the moon as all his hard work and perseverance paid off. “If you want something so bad, and you put your mind, heart and soul into it and believe in yourself - YOU can Do it!!! I did, and I was from this little town in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, the place I love dearly.” He went on to become the Head of the Physical Fitness Department in the Royal NZ Navy as a Warrant Officer Physical Training Instructor (the highest non-commissioned Officer rank in the RNZN), an achievement he is very proud of.
Michael represented NZ Combined Services in Rugby and Touch and went on to represent New Zealand in Touch, played many sports including Softball, Squash, Triathlons and
completed an Iron Man and Marathon all while still in the Navy. He coached the RNZN in Rugby, Touch, Softball and was selected as the National Coach for rugby in Thailand and against the British Lions in Perth. He also was the President of the Multi Sports clubs. After all this in 1994, Michael was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) from the Queen in the
New Year’s Honours List for Services to the Community. “That was probably the highlight
of my life, going down to Wellington with my family to receive my medal with them there”.
Michael offers our students who wish to pursue a career in the military advice to take every opportunity that comes their way - get out of your comfort zone and just do it as you don’t know how much you will love it until you try it out. Michael said he was exactly that person: not wanting to sign the papers to join the RNZN but over time I weighed up the pro’s and con’s and guess what the pro’s won out! I said to myself:
Do I want to get out of here? Yes
Do I want to travel around the world for free? Yes
Can I handle being away from my parents and family? Yes
What have I got to lose? Nothing!
The military is not for everyone, you won’t know that until you give it a red hot crack! And
then if you still don’t like it you can leave. You are free to discharge at any stage and it is
not a blight on your shoulders.. It just didn’t work out for you. At least you tried.
For our students who are preparing for a military career Michael says it is important to take your education seriously at school as for him there were a lot of times opportunities came to him while he served in the RNZN but unfortunately he was turned down many times by the boards as not taking his education at school seriously really let him down. “I was disappointed, as I could have been promoted up the chain a lot quicker. I did have to try harder than the others because I did not put a lot of emphasis into my class work at school. Looking back at it now if I had my chance again I would certainly put 100 percent effort into my schooling. Promotions are one thing but the military is not for everyone and relying solely on this is dangerous. Prepare for anything in life as there are many corners, twists and turns. My motto in life is: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”
Michael James Te Hurunui Hohapata BEM Q21979