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Cook Islander credits NZ Defence Force for turning life around, encourages youth to join

Wednesday 13 March 2024 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Features, Weekend


Cook Islander credits NZ Defence Force for turning life around, encourages youth to join
Corporal Tom Harrison, a Cook Islander, says NZ Defence Force holds immense promise and potential for the youth of the Cook Islands. SUPPLIED / 24030851

Cook Islander Tom Harrison Junior is counting his blessings, saying that joining the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) got him moving forward in his career and life.

Harrison says that as the world evolves, so do the aspirations and ambitions of the Cook Islands people.

He believes that joining the NZ Defence Force holds immense promise and potential for the youth of the Cook Islands.

For him, the NZDF provided much-needed direction.

“Direction from excessive alcohol consumption, drink driving, and underage pregnancies to name a few,” says Harrison.

“There are statistics to prove that we’re aren’t exactly composed in these areas. I want to clarify by saying that no country, and not one single person is perfect.”

The NZDF prides itself on its commitment to excellence and professionalism, but like any other organisation, it’s managed by humans, explains Harrison.

“We all know humans aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. As part of this dedication, members have access to world-class training facilities, and recognised studying opportunities. For individuals seeking to excel in their chosen fields, the NZDF provides the resources and support needed to succeed.”

Joining the NZDF broadened Harrison’s life by opening doors to professional growth and development.

“The NZDF taught me things that I would have learned later in life, if I had remained in the Cook Islands. It may be specialised training programmes, advanced education opportunities, or hands-on experience in diverse roles, the NZDF equips its members with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world.”

He highlights that the NZDF offers a range of career pathways tailored to individual strengths and interests, from technical trades to leadership positions.

By joining, Harrison says young Cook Islanders will have the privilege of serving their country and communities with honour and distinction.

“Who is the first point of call when the Cook Islands is struck by a cyclone? Aotearoa. Who sends carpenters to build homes in Penrhyn? Nu Tireni. Who will most likely protect the Cook Islands when all hell breaks loose in the Pacific? New Zealand.

“Whatever name you use to describe The Land of the Long White Cloud, being part of this organisation brings a sense of purpose, pride and more distinctly for our people, ambitious direction.”

Harrison feels that one of the enriching aspects of joining the NZDF is the opportunity for travel and cultural exchange. He has travelled to Australia, UAE, England, Wales, Finland, Sweden, and several other countries.

Financial stability and a range of benefits are also guaranteed for young Cook Islanders who join the NZDF, he adds.

“I think that joining the New Zealand Defence Force presents an opportunity for the youth of the Cook Islands to embark on a journey of service, ambitious direction, and fulfilment. With its focus on excellence, camaraderie, and community, it offers a path that not only enriches individual lives but also contributes to the greater good.

“Kare e rai ana the Kuki Airani te ka kite i te tuatua Māori i konei. A tetai ra, ka inangaro au i te kite ki taku tua kaui, ki taku tua katau, e au tane e te vaine mei Rarotonga mai, Pukapuka, Atiu, Aitutaki e te au pa enua o the Kuki Airani.

“Embrace this opportunity with pride and determination, knowing that together, we can make a difference in the world.”

Harrison is asking the government to help him build a recruiting office in Rarotonga “to kick start ambitious endeavours”.

To learn more about a career in the NZDF, visit or email Harrison Jr at


GM Hu on 14/03/2024

Sad day when military training - being trained to kill fellow human beings - is seen as a path to professional development and ambitious direction for our rangatahi