That was 2001. This month, the flight sergeant was awarded a medal for her long service and proudly upholding the Code of Conduct.
Receiving the award, McNabb (nee Woonton) paid tribute to her family, husband Robert and their six children for putting up with shift work hours, being away from home on exercises, training courses, or overseas deployments for the past 15 years.
“Fifteen years of my family allowing me to serve NZ.
“If it wasn’t for Rob and the children and those that love us to lend a hand, this award wouldn’t have been possible, so this award means the world to me, as its recognition of the commitment they’ve made.
“It was earnt by my family, it’s their award.”
After training as an airwoman, Andrea chose to join the Logistics Trade – where she achieved 100% in every phase test she sat.
“This was intentional, during my training, I set myself goals and had them written up on the wall of my barrack room.
“This reminded me every day of my purpose, why I was away from my family and what I needed to focus on, I then worked really hard to achieve them.”
Raised in the village of Tupapa, she attended Avatea primary school and Tereora College, before moving on to Wellington Girls’ College for the end of high school.
Returning to Rarotonga she met Robert McNabb; they married and moved to New Zealand to pursue his athletics career.
Andrea knew nothing of the Air Force when she enlisted, only what her husband had shared with her. “Rob would always talk about his time in Singapore while his Dad was serving there, and had lots of good childhood memories associated with the Air Force.
“I thought, this is an organisation that takes care of their employees and families, and with us having a young family I thought it might be a good fit … and it certainly was.”