When making such a big decision, like choosing the career path you want to take, there are always lots of questions you will have. Listed here are some of the most frequently asked ones - you can also filter them by category. 

If these don’t answer your query then give us a call on 0800 1 FORCE and we will be happy to help.

As a Reservist will I be made to go on a deployment or can I refuse?

No. There is no compulsion to deploy. However the encouraged expectation of Reserves is the willingness of individuals to deploy and support operational service.

I play sport at a competitive level. Can I keep playing while I'm in the Defence Force?

If you're playing top-level sports of any kind, we will usually be able to ensure you get the opportunity to compete. We have sportsmen and women who compete at national and international level, as well as fulfilling their regular duties.  The drive to win and teamwork are core to the Defence Force and so we encourage all personnel to get involved in team sports whenever they can.

Can I change jobs once I’m in the Defence Force?

Initial Service and trade selection is really important, and it pays to do your homework so that you make an informed decision as both you and the Defence Force will be investing a lot of time, energy and money over the course of your career.

Due to career progression and regular posting cycles, you will be changing jobs every couple of years so there are always opportunities for new challenges, to gain new skills, and to live and work in different places with different people.

In some circumstances it is possible to change trade once you’re in the Defence Force. However, trade and Service changes can be a lengthy process and will depend on a number of factors, so it is not guaranteed.

You can resign from the Defence Force and typically we require three months notice. However, during times of increased operational activity, or if you are required to complete a Return of Service Obligation, you may be required to continue serving until you have completed your required duties or service period.

Do I have to tell my employer about my Reserve Forces activities?

No. Only you can judge whether or not to tell your employer.

The Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973 makes it an offence for an employer to discriminate against, disadvantage or dismiss an employee or prospective employee for rendering service in the Reserve Forces. Also, no one from the Directorate of Reserve Forces and Youth Development or your unit will contact your employer on your behalf without your prior consent.

To help us provide the support you require we encourage all Reserve Forces personnel to discuss their military service with their employer.

Your employer may be more willing to release you for civil defence or other emergency assistance if they are aware of your Reserve Forces involvement in advance.

I have a mobile phone. Will I be able to use it in the Defence Force?

Mobile phones are allowed in the New Zealand Defence Force, but you are not permitted to use them sometimes, like when on operations or exercise or during parts of your initial training.

Can I keep studying outside the Defence Force?

Yes. You can choose what to do with your free time and if you want to pursue further education you can. If the study is related to your trade, the Defence Force may pay for it or subsidise your course fees. You may even be allowed to spend some work time studying, depending on the course and the demands of your job.

Find out more on our University Study and Education and Training pages, or look up education and training, in the lifestyle and salary section for each Service.

Does my employer have to pay me (a Reservist) while I'm on military leave?

No. Military Leave provisions under the Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973  do not require employers to pay employees on military leave.

We encourage employers to top-up the difference between your civilian pay and your military pay so you do not experience financial hardship while on military leave. Of course, if you use your annual leave your employer does have to pay you while on military training. Check your company’s policy for details, or contact us for further options.

Will I be able to stay in touch with family and friends during my training?

While you're undertaking your training, you will be given plenty of time to remain in contact with family and friends by mail or pay telephone. 

Do I need to wear my uniform if I go to University?

Depending on which scheme you are studying under, if you are an enlisted Regular Force member of the Defence Force you may have to wear uniform when attending lectures, tutorials and other formal occasions like graduation.

At any point in your career, if you are attending workshops, courses or lectures in a professional capacity then you will most likely be expected to wear uniform, but this will be up to command or personal discretion. 

What do I sign when I become a Reservist?

Successful Reserve applicants sign both an Offer of Service and an Attestation Form (legal document that means you agree to abide by and be subject to Service Law).

Do I always have to do physical training?

New Zealand Defence Force requires its personnel to maintain a high level of physical fitness. While we won’t always mandate what training you do, you would be required to keep your fitness up to a good standard throughout your career so you will need to keep doing some form of physical training.

I have long hair. Will I have to get a haircut when I join the Defence Force?

That depends on how long your hair is when you join. But in general for women: Short hair should be 15mm above the collar if you have a bob-style haircut Long hair should be tied up so that it sits 15mm above the collar Ponytails can only be worn during personal time in the barracks and when not in uniform No hair should show on the forehead when a beret or hat is worn. For men: Hair should be no longer than 15mm above the collar, and no shorter than a number 2 comb haircut Sideburns must be neatly-trimmed and not extend below the middle of the ear.

Will I be allowed to keep in touch with my family and friends?

Family, friends and partners are very important. It’s entirely up to you whether you maintain your existing relationships or socialise mainly with your military friends and colleagues.

When you are deployed overseas, we make sure that you can keep in regular contact with family and friends and are kept up-to-date with national news and events, especially if you are in remote areas.

During your initial recruit training you will have limited access to your mobile phone and pay telephone, and regular access to mail.

Will I (as a Reservist) continue to accrue my annual leave while I'm on military leave?

Yes. Being granted military leave provisions under the Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973  means that your normal employment is viewed as uninterrupted and you are entitled to accrue your normal annual leave entitlement.

If a special holiday, such as a public holiday, falls within the period of protected military leave there is no requirement for your employer either to pay or accredit that special holiday to you.

My application to join the NZDF has been declined on medical grounds, but I don’t agree with the decision. What can I do?

You can apply for the decision to decline your application to be reconsidered at both the Initial Health or Full Medical stage of the process.  The reconsideration process involves a Senior Military Doctor looking at your application and any medical information already provided, and ensuring that the decision to decline was correct and in line with correct policy.

How long do I have to apply for my reconsideration?

You must apply within 4 weeks of receiving advice that your application was declined.

How do I apply for reconsideration?

Request the application for reconsideration of a decision to decline from your Candidate Co-ordinator, complete and send it along with any supporting documentation to the address on the form.

Do I need to provide any information with my application?

Yes, you need to provide as much relevant information as you can to enable the Senior Military Doctor to make an informed decision on your situation. 

Sometimes you may need to get further information from your own GP or a Specialist. This is at your cost.

This may include a GP or Specialist report with full details, dates, outcome and ongoing management on any condition you may have.

How long will it take for a decision to be made?

We will assess your application and make a decision within 4 weeks.  You will be notified of this decision by your Candidate Co-ordinator.

My application to join the NZDF was declined. I applied to have the decision reconsidered, and it was declined again. I still don’t agree and want to take things further. What can I do?

You can apply for the decision to decline your application to be reviewed. The review process involves several senior military doctors reviewing your application to join the NZDF along with your supporting medical information, discussing your case and reaching a decision on your suitability for service.

If you want to apply for review, you must apply within 4 weeks of receiving advice that your application was declined.

Please note: You cannot apply for Review unless you have already gone through the Reconsideration process and been declined.

How do I apply for my review?

Request the application for review of a decision to decline from your Candidate Co-ordinator, complete and send it along with your supporting documentation to the address on the form.

Please note: You cannot apply for Review unless you have already gone through the Reconsideration process and been declined.

Can I have tattoos and piercings?

Tattoos are acceptable provided they are appropriate for a military environment and are complementary to the Defence Force’s values and image. Each service has clear guidelines regarding this. Cultural tattoos are permitted, however highly visible tattoos with inappropriate or offensive content are not acceptable.

Women are allowed to have their ears pierced. Only one piercing in each ear is acceptable, and all other visible piercings are not permitted.

What options are available to me for maternity leave?

The Defence Force is family friendly and offers generous leave policies to support working parents. If you are planning a family you can take parental leave and we provide you with support to reintegrate into working life, including getting fit again. You may also be eligible to receive a return to work incentive payment, which is equivalent to six weeks salary and payable six months after your return from parental leave.

You can continue to breast-feed if you choose. Nursing mothers may be able to make arrangements with their commanders and managers to establish an appropriate location for breast-feeding and expressing milk. However, personal needs must always be balanced with high priority Unit or operational activities.

There is also an annual leave allowance to use at your discretion. This is an important time in your life and we recognise that. In the Defence Force you can enjoy family life like everyone else. 

There is flexibility around leave for school holidays or if you need to care for a sick child.

How do I take care of personal hygiene when I’m in the field?

It is important to maintain high hygiene standards for your health and well-being.

When you are in the field and don’t have access to bathroom facilities, you will be taught during initial recruit training how to tactically, safely and appropriately take care of all personal hygiene matters – and you will always be able to maintain your privacy and discretion. Most women carry wet-wipes, and enough spare socks and underwear.

When you are conducting high intensity training, or if your team is on the move, you will have to improvise and take the opportunity to go to the toilet during rest breaks. On longer and larger training exercises, involving combat service support, there may be proper toilet areas (port-a-loos) and field showers set up.

On operational deployments, regardless of what service you are in, the accommodation, ablution and shop/canteen facilities are established to a comfortable and hygienic standard. Depending on the location and situation this can vary from military or local suppliers, and from military tents to a hotel room or a locally rented property. 

Can I attend evening social events off base after work?

We believe passionately in providing an excellent work/life balance, and the hours you work will be similar to any role in civilian life, with most of your weekends free. Of course if you’re on exercise, on operations, or responding to a critical situation, then you will need to be flexible about this.

Downtime can be spent however you wish. You might want to socialise on base with your friends, and you can invite your civilian friends on base as long as they are escorted at all times. You might just want to get away from the base and visit family, or go into town for a night out.

There are gyms and swimming pools for exercise and recreation, and bars to relax in. If you need a bit of peace and quiet for study or reading, there’s a well-stocked library. There is a shop and café, hobby huts and many clubs for you to join. This could be anything from cycling to ski-ing to Kapa Haka.

As an enlisted service member it is important that your personal conduct both on and off duty is responsible, respectful and appropriate. If you are likely to be consuming alcohol, we encourage our personnel to drink responsibly, organise safe and sober travel home after a night out, and to look out for each other’s safety and well-being.