Fri, May 24, 2024 10:04 AM

Full circle for new Base Commander


Paula Hulburt

She started at RNZAF Base Woodbourne as a young aircraft engineer but stepping out on the parade grounds this time, it was as new Base Commander.

Wing Commander Michele Mitchell officially took over from Group Captain Paul Drysdale yesterday amid the fanfare of a military parade.

An engineer by trade, Wing Commander Mitchell’s return to Woodbourne marks a full circle as she began her Air Force career there in 1996.

A haka welcomed the new base commander after Group Captain Drysdale handed over the Symbol of Base Command, a large wooden patu, which was blessed.

Wing Commander Mitchell says Base Woodbourne played a key role in her career development.

Embarking on the next stage of her journey in Marlborough she paid tribute to base’s former commander, Group Captain Drysdale, who started at the Base in 2021.

“It is an absolute privilege to take over command from you.

A large wooden patu, the symbol of Base Command was officially handed to Wing Commander Michele Mitchell. Photo: Supplied.

“During our handover I have seen the outstanding work you have achieved here and I have only heard high praise for the leadership you have delivered, and challenging decisions you have made over the past two and half years.”

Wing Commander Mitchell and her family were greeted onto the parade ground.

Her new role comes at a time when the Royal New Zealand Air Force is implementing its initiative Plan Astra – which aims to bolster the base.

She says reviewing and adjusting training is key to prepare aviators for future missions.

“For us here at Woodbourne, that means we will continuously review and adjust our training, to ensure it adequately prepares our aviators for future missions; missions that will demand resilience, agility, and an ability to integrate effectively with our military partners and other key organisations.

Wing Commander Michele Mitchell was welcomed to RNZAF Woodbourne officially. Photo: Supplied.

“In addition to our ground-based training, we will continue to develop Woodbourne’s capability to provide a high-end operational training environment, supporting the collective Air Force to train as well as fight.”

“The reasons why we join the Air Force haven’t changed much over time – we want to go overseas, we want to get good training, be part of serving our country and having a real sense of purpose in what we do.”

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