Patrol vessel under female command

Lieutenant-commander Lorna Gray has been appointed as the first female commander of HMNZS Otago....
Lieutenant-commander Lorna Gray has been appointed as the first female commander of HMNZS Otago. PHOTO: NZDF
Lieutenant-commander Lorna Gray's appointment as the commanding officer of HMNZS Otago is a homecoming of sorts.

Lt-cmdr Gray (34) grew up on the Taieri Plain and her Otago roots have added to the honour of the appointment.

``It's a huge privilege to be put in command,'' she said.

``It means a lot coming from Otago.''

Lt-cmdr Gray is the first female commanding officer of an RNZN offshore patrol vessel.

``For me, it's just an honour to be appointed. Gender doesn't come into it,'' she said.

Lt-cmdr Gray joined the navy in 2005 and served as a warfare officer on board HMNZS Wakakura, HMNZS Manawanui and HMNZS Te Kaha.

She did a tour of duty as a UN military observer in Syria and Lebanon.

She then served as delivery crew for the offshore patrol vessels HMNZS Otago and HMNZS Wellington, before serving on Otago as the commissioning officer of the watch until 2011.

She then spent a year at the Officer Training School before returning to HMNZS Otago and Wellington.

She spent time in Australia on a PWO exchange before returning to New Zealand last year.

Despite her extensive travel and home in Auckland, Lt-cmdr Gray said the Taieri and Otago still felt like home.

She attended primary school at Wyllies Crossing School, completed high school at the then-Taieri High School and went to the University of Otago.

After taking command of the offshore patrol vessel, Lt-cmdr Gray and HMNZS Otago would be posted to the Pacific Islands.

The ship would patrol the Southern Ocean during the coming summer, spending time in Dunedin before sailing towards the Antarctic.

The return to Dunedin would be a highlight, she said.

``I'm very much looking forward to returning home,'' she said.

``I miss the Maungatua Range a lot. I really do miss home.''

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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