People would think more than 30 years commanding soldiers in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) would involve high degrees of management, and they would be right.
NZ Army Warrant Officer Class One Charles (Chas) Dewes, has acknowledged that vast experience one step further with UCOL by gaining a Bachelor of Applied Management (BAM) with a double major in Operations & Production Management and Project Management.
Three years ago, UCOL and the New Zealand Defence College (NZDC) signed a Relationship Agreement to enable study initiatives and access to discounted study fees for NZDF serving personnel, their immediate whanau, ex-serving personnel and veterans.
In 2019, Chas was one of seventeen NZDF personnel selected to participate in a study initiative, which saw participants gain a head start in the BAM degree programme through UCOL’s Assessment (APL) and Recognition (RPL) of Prior Learning service. For Chas, it meant his life journey and military experience were able to be assessed and recognised as credits towards his degree.
Growing up in rural Horoera just north of the East Cape, Chas recalls his grandfather always used this quote from his whanaunga, Sir Apirana Ngata and since completing his own journey says “I now have a better understanding of what he meant”.
‘E tipu e rea, Ko tō ringa ki nga rākau a te pākehā, Hei ora mō te tinana, Ko tō
ngākau ki ngā tāonga a ō tipuna Māori, Hei tikitiki mō tō māhuna.’
‘Grow and branch forth tender youth, Take on and use the tools of the pakeha, For
the sustenance of your wellbeing, Your heart to the treasures of your ancestors, To
wear as an adornment/plume for your head.’ Sir Apirana Ngata
Chas’s military journey started when he joined the Territorials in 1986. He later changed over to the Regular Force, immediately feeling he had made the right decision. “I could not ask for a better career, this is my dream job, this is me. I always wanted to be a soldier, and now I am doing it, and getting paid. From a life on the farm, in the shearing sheds and bush, this was easy.”
With tours to Somalia, Bosnia, East Timor and Afghanistan, Chas says, “I have been truly fortunate to deploy on operations and perform the roles, responsibilities and duties through the rank levels as a soldier. I realise that that my career will come to an end as a soldier within the NZDF. I have a plan, a simple plan to do something I will enjoy that also involves me being around my family more.”
On completing the APL and RPL processes, Chas says it was a significant acknowledgement of the knowledge, skills and experience he has accumulated over the years. “It is a reward for my accomplishments, and I now have a tertiary qualification to back my experience when I decide to leave the NZDF.”
Chas admits at times the workload was overwhelming trying to balance work, study, and family. “Taking on a double major is a big commitment, but it’s achievable with good support.” At first, he found the study daunting, especially learning to research and interpret information. “I really didn’t know what I was doing or what was required of me. I received great encouragement and support from the UCOL lecturers and staff, they set me on the right track and kept me focussed.”
UCOL’s APL Manager Shane Tawharu says, “The NZDF (Navy, Army, Air Force and Civilian) students are of a very high calibre. Although the current cohorts are focused on Business and Management programmes, there is scope for future enrolment in any UCOL programme apart from Nursing.”
Chas has always wanted to ‘give back to the people’ and is keen to run leadership programmes for young Māori at schools and marae when he eventually retires - there is also a possibility of more study in his future.
Reflecting on his military career Chas says, “I have always experienced a sense of duty, of satisfaction, of worth, of meaning, achievement and accomplishment as a soldier”.
These feelings can only be enhanced when he graduates with his UCOL degree in March.