Fitter, healthier Pacific forces

Warrant officer Samantha Marra speaking on Monday (May 7) at the official opening of the course, which was opened by the High Comissioner Johnathon Curr, and had speakers from senior representatives from Republic of Fiji Military Forces and Fiji Police.

RNZAF Warrant officer Samantha Marra, formerly of Te Anau, is helping to lead a first-time physical instructors training course in Fiji for military personnel and police from Pacific nations.

Mrs Marra may be spending this month in Fiji, but 6.30am starts and full days of training ahead, means the next month will be anything but a tropical vacation. 

Mrs Marra grew up in Te Anau and has been with the Royal New Zealand Air Force since 2001, where she serves as an advisor for all physical training instructors (PTIs) – that is, the people who train others to get fit.

She said it was common for PTIs from Pacific nations to come to New Zealand to train, but the upcoming course was a first. The idea came about as a way to engage with Pacific nations, she said. 

Mrs Marra is serving as contingent commander for the course, which is run through the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Army, and Navy, and Mrs Marra will be part of a contingent of five New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and one Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel. 

The students are from Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tonga and include military, police and corrections representatives.

"This is the first time we've ever tried to bring all of these nations together and in a location away from home to teach them," she said.

She said it was exciting to be promoting health here in the Pacific islands and teaching all of their students some amazing skills to take away. 

Alongside fellow NZDF instructors, Mrs Marra will be working with 22 people to cover a full course of instruction – anatomy and physiology, instruction principles, recreation event management, and of course, fitness testing.

One of the physical benchmarks for attendees to achieve by the end of the course would be running 2.4km in under 10 minutes for men, and under 10 minutes, 30 seconds for women. 

While there wouldn't be much time to sneak in a tropical escape for her first time in the country, Mrs Marra said the upside of the course meant it would take advantage of a lot of local spots around Fiji.

"The main thing we're trying to achieve is that we have all of these great physical trainers at the end of it, who can go back to their nations and take their own people in physical training, and improve the health and wellbeing of their communities and their services as well."


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