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AS A mother and a New
Zealand Army officer
in a combat arms corps,
Capt Sandra Patterson,
the OC of Duntroon's
Long Tan Coy, has a unique perspec-
tive on the issue of gender restric-
tions in the ADF.
Since 2001, New Zealand has had
no restrictions on roles for women in
its defence force and they are able to
serve in the SAS, infantry, armour and
artillery, although no woman has yet
made it into the SAS.
Initially this change was only for
officers and in 2003 the first female
gunners were enlisted.
This year's graduation at Duntroon
Army October 25, 2012
Loving the artillery life
New Zealand Army gunner Capt Sandra Patterson, wouldn't have her service any other way, Cpl Mark Doran reports.
will be the first time all corps will be
open to all Australian staff cadets.
Capt Patterson joined the New
Zealand Army in January 2001 and
graduated from Officer Cadet School
as a member of the Royal New
Zealand Artillery, starting her career at
16 Fd Regt in Linton.
She trained as a forward observ-
er for light infantry units and as
a NZLAV gunner for a cavalry unit
before being posted as an instructor in
gunnery at the School of Artillery in
Waiouru, where she also managed the
regimental officer basic courses.
Cap t Patterson was posted to
Duntroon in 2011 for two years.
She said she always wanted
to be a member of an arms
corp s and it was
artillery which had the most appeal
"I like the mix of command and
technical skills which are needed and
I think being a forward observer is
one of the best jobs you can do in the
Army," she said.
"Fitness is extremely important
and the future physical employment
standards testing will be a positive
step, not just for women, but for all
At 163cm, tall Capt Patterson said
she would not have survived in her
role if she could not physically do her
"Perhaps the hardest physical
tasks I have been required to do have
been in the role of forward observer in
the dismounted role," she said.
"Carrying my personal equipment,
radios, thermal imagery kit and weap-
on meant I would have to carry up to
80 per cent of my body weight.
"And it was challenging
training in my own time
and I think there was also a
degree of mental toughness
Capt Patterson deployed
on a low-level operation to
Bosnia for six months in 2004
in a human intelligence role reporting
on ethnic tension which still existed
nine years after the war.
Her latest deployment was to
Afghanistan for six months in 2007
with a New Zealand Provincial
Reconstruction Team as an infantry
Capt Patterson said she enjoyed
her time in Afghanistan where she was
the local security platoon commander,
the quick reaction force (QRF) com-
mander and unit training and range
"I also commanded and trained an
Afghan National Police platoon which
assisted with security and we were
often on partnered patrols," she said.
"It was interesting as a woman to
be instructing the Afghans but it actu-
ally went a lot better than I thought it
would because they responded well
"I guess all the lessons
on leadership I have learnt
applied to how I dealt with
them by leading by example
and being hands on, as I was
always involved in their
training and also spent a lot
of time with them socially.
"As the QRF we reacted to
quite a few incidents though I
was not involved directly in a
ness levels for
Army are similar to that of the
current Australian Army basic fitness
assessment, with different levels for
males and females, except the New
Zealanders have less time for the
Combat fitness assessments
including a forced march, a rope
climb and a fireman's carry are
designed for individual combat units
and do not differentiate between the
New Zealand Artillery units add a
stores carry and a gun run after their
forced march for their fitness tests.
As a female commander, Capt
Patterson said she rarely had any
issues with men, either during train-
ing or on operations.
"If someone is competent, then
their gender is irrelevant and I think
soldiers believe that as well," she said.
"The thought that men will try to
protect female soldiers during combat
"In the military we build strong
teams and within those teams gender
Capt Patterson said she felt
positive about the changes for the
employment of women in all roles of
"I think it will take time to change
the thinking of people who are
opposed to it, but now the decision
has been made we need to move on
and give it support," she said.
"There have been some high-
performing women pass through
Duntroon as staff cadets who now
have an opportunity to compete with
their peers and go to an arms corps."
After being in Australia for the
past 18 months Capt Patterson said
she had read a lot of newspaper arti-
cles on the gender debate, especially
women in combat, some of which
were quite negative.
"I have also found it difficult lis-
tening to some of the public opinions
because I have enough experience in
the Army, doing the job, to under-
stand the reality," she said.
"Deploying to a war zone as a
mother would be tough just as much
as it would be for any parent leaving
their child behind."
When asked if she was still a lady,
Capt Patterson said "absolutely".
"Being a lady is something which
is extremely important to me," she
"At first I thought I had to be a
bloke to lead blokes before I realised
I could just be myself -- a lady and a
"At Duntroon I have seen some
very encouraging attitudes from what
will be the Australian Army's next
generation of officers.
"I think it will be difficult for
the first women to enter arms corps
unless they have good role models,
which I missed when I was a younger
"I think the ADF can look forward
to an environment where everyone
is treated equally regardless of their
gender and where people are com-
fortable working together in all areas
I think the
ADF can look
forward to an
-- Capt Sandra Patterson,
New Zealand Army gunner
Sandra Patterson is a
NZ Army combat arms officer
and the Long Tan Coy OC at the Royal
Military College -- Duntroon.
Photo by Cpl Mark Doran
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