A young man from Samoa says he hopes his recent Navy graduation demonstrates a new career pathway for his family.
Ordinary Electronic Technician (O.E.T) Mareko Ah Toon, 26, from Pakuranga, graduated as the top recruit in the Basic Common Training 16/02 intake at the Devonport Naval Base at the end of last year.
He received the highly sought-after Spencer Tewsley Cup and Award for the best all round Basic Common Trainee, for displaying excellence throughout his training.
Ah Toon received the award on the Base parade ground in front of friends and family, and the other 41 sailors graduating from 18 weeks’ Basic Common Training.
Ah Toon said you could read about the Navy online but doing it was something else.
“It was an experience where I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. You don’t get the full gist until you get in.”
Ah Toon was born in Apia, Samoa. He said he was inspired by the work the Navy did in the Pacific Islands.
“I’m from Samoa – I’ve seen the work. And the Navy is a big whanau at the end of the day.”
It was that family and mates aspect that helped with the training. “You would have your hard days, being away from the family, but you made a new one here.”
He hadn’t expected to be top recruit, joking that he just “plodded along, doing my everyday thing. It’s how you present yourself, and knowing there’s always room for improvement. That’s how I work. You have to have that mindset, that there’s always a better way to do it. You can always learn from others.”
Ah Toon graduated in sight of the gates he walked through 18 weeks earlier and says the time “just breezes by. It’s a whole new experience, seeing life from a different perspective. It’s like yesterday when I walked through that front gate.”
His family were there to congratulate their first sailor.
“They were worried about me being away, we’re a tight family.” He said everyone had done what they had always done, and he wanted something out of the norm. “I’m opening up doors for younger members, setting a new path for my family.”