RN honours International Women's Day
The Royal Navy has joined thousands of organisations to celebrate International Women’s Day, marking the economic, social and political achievements of females across the world.
The theme for this year is Inspiring Change, encouraging people to challenge the status quo and encourage equality for women across the world.
The Royal Navy has more than 3,000 females serving across the world on operational deployments – working at sea, in the air and on land. And last year the Naval Servicewomen’s Network was launched to encourage retention of women in the navy, offering mentoring schemes and events to address long-standing issues such as managing families and careers.
Name: Warrant Officer First Class (Naval Nurse) Elaine C Grist
From: Salford, Manchester (family still up there)
Lives: Alverstoke, Gosport.
Marital status: Married, he is ex RN and is now RNR – stepchildren – stepson 24 lives with us.
Has been in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service (Reserves) for almost 26 years – joining date was 19/04/1988. Her reserve unit is HMS King Alfred.
Her civilian job is a theatre / recovery nurse – works as scrub /recovery 2/3 days per week at BMI Hospital Winchester.
When deployed Elaine is a theatre nurse. She is also a specialist nurse recruiter on an additional duties contract meaning 2/3 days per week she recruits medics at nationwide conferences or is in the office following them up and doing data returns to Surgeon Generals dept.
Why did you join the RNR? What do you enjoy about it?
I was going to join the RAF but the careers office were intimidating and informed me to check with my parents as 22 year enrolment was a long time – I was 22 yrs at the time and informed them it was my career and I would think about it. I then saw an advertisement for the RNR in the Nursing Times so applied to HMS Essex who wrote back stating HMS Salford was closer. I hadn’t heard of the unit and I lived in Salford! – The rest is history.
I joined to do something different especially at weekends. I have loved my two careers and have met some great lifelong friends along the way, and more importantly had some fantastic opportunities – from dealing with major trauma wounds on the front line to abseiling/fun run in the desert raising money for charity and sailing. Last year I had the pleasure of being a steward at Wimbledon which was awesome especially being there when Murray won. Other skills learnt such as time management and leadership are vital in life no matter what job you do.
I am also known for my organisation skills at mess dinners – there can be up to 84 guests and for social balls 150 guests – it takes some organising especially whilst being a theatre nurse, part time naval nurse and a wife!
Name: Leading Communications Information Specialist (LCIS) Rosina Hearn
Lives: Deganwy, north Wales
Marital status: Single
Reservist at HMS Eaglet
Has been in the Royal Naval Reserves for 12 years and completed two operational deployments in that time. First was as Force Protection on the RFA ships on Op Telic where they guarded the Iraqi oil platforms and she is currently in Bahrain as a watchkeeper at UKMCC.
Her civilian job is a secondary school music teacher and she took a career break for this deployment – she will regain employment in September. She also teaches flute and harp as well as general classroom music sessions, runs the Little Chamber Orchestra one evening a week and has been a volunteer Coastguard Rescue Officer for the past eight years.
Why did you join the RNR?
I had thought about joining up full time but I then started doing teacher training and I loved it and decided that was what I wanted to do. When I finished training I joined the Reserves so that I could still be part of the Royal Navy but also have my own job outside.
Your deployments have been very different – what did they involve?
For Op Telic we worked six hours on and six off in a rotating shift pattern. We went to Dubai, Oman and Bahrain and I would perform sentry duties whether alongside or at sea. Before I deployed we had four weeks at Collingwood to put us into the military mindset but it was quite difficult when we got out there to switch over from thinking like a civilian to adopting a more military-style mindset. There is a sense of changing to another persona – you switch from being Rosina the music teacher to LCIS Hearn so you do have to adapt quite rapidly. At one point I remember standing at the top of the gangway with my colleague who was also a Reservist and a music teacher and we were laughing about how strange it was for two music teachers to be guarding the ship! But that is the nature of the RNR – everyone does have a different life and career – it is what makes us unique in the military.
My job at UKMCC in Bahrain is as a watchkeeper and I am in charge of two others. We work 12 hour shifts and our main role involves ensuring that the various messaging systems that send messages to the ships are working and setting up and maintaining VTCs 24 hours a day.
How accepting are people of you being a Reservist? How do your Regular counterparts react? How has the Reserves changed in the last 12 years?
I think it has changed a lot – I remember when I first joined I was told that the last reservist that deployed from the unit was in the 1950s and I probably wouldn’t be sent anywhere. I missed the first call up for Telic in 2003 as I still had some training to complete but I volunteered for the next one and since then it has become much more career orientated. It is like a second career – there is much more focus on your future plans, how you feel your career is progressing, what is coming up next whereas before it felt like more of a weekend hobby. There is a real pressure for people to deploy now.
Generally people in the Regular Service are quite accepting – they are always surprised, and interested, in what you do in your civilian life. I think some find it difficult to understand that you can have two careers.
How do you juggle your civilian and military careers?
I have to plan well in advance in terms of both jobs for example coming out here I have decided to take a career break. I also have to sacrifice my weekends and time in the evenings – I’ll have been working all week and then have to drive somewhere to work all weekend and then come back to my day job on Monday morning. It can be tiring, but ultimately it is a great experience and I love it.
How do colleagues, friends and family react to your status as a Reservist?
They are all incredibly supportive, and I can keep in touch with emails and by telephone. I really miss them all and look forward to receiving contact from them. This is the longest I’ll have been away and so far I have missed Christmas and my nephew’s first birthday and christening which was very hard actually, I was sad to not be there as it was a real family occasion.
The children at school are always very interested in what I do as a reservist – they think it’s amazing and loved to hear stories of what I had been doing. The first time I went away they were fascinated to hear about what I did and I showed them photographs of where I had been and the ships and gave them a talk on what it was like. They also put a photo up of me on the school noticeboard when I received my Volunteer Reserves Service Medal which was lovely.
How does being a Reservist enhance your civilian career? What is it like being a female deployed in a very male-dominated environment?
I definitely draw on aspect of my military training in my everyday life – the confidence and teamwork aspect especially. It gives you another view of life – a bigger picture that you don’t always see as a civilian and that you have the chance to be a part of. It’s not me just stuck in a classroom day after day, I am seeing another side to life and what is going on around the world.
As females I think we definitely bring something different to the military – particularly in the way that we tackle problems or issues. There are more females deployed out here now which has brought quite a different dynamic as previously it was very male-dominated.
Name: Lieutenant Commander Tracy MacSephney
RNR Unit: HMS Wildfire
Where are you from/live now?
Tracy MacSephney was born in Zimbabwe but grew up and was educated in South Africa. Tracy started to travel when she finished school which means that when Tracy left home she was 18. Tracy MacSephney currently live in Greater London.
Marital status? Are you married to a Service person or civilian? Any children?
Living with my civilian partner of two and a bit years, we don’t have any children but are looking forward to the day when we can have two big Malamutes called Hudson and Harper.
How long have you been in the RNR/what year did you join? What branch?
After travelling around for a few years I decided to join the Royal Navy and joined in Nov 1999 as a Short Engagement Seaman. I completed my basic training at HMS Raleigh, in 2001 I joined BRNC Dartmouth to complete my officer training and eventually I went on to specialise in Air Traffic Control. I left the Royal Navy in March 2004 and joined the RNR the very next day as part of the MTO (AWNIS) specialisation (MTO = Maritime Trade Operations and AWNIS = Allied Worldwide Navigation Information System). What that basically means is that I specialise in freedom of navigation (particularly safe navigation) for all maritime trade.
What is your civilian role? In broad terms what is your everyday role – what do you do?
I work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I’m currently working in the British Embassy in Yemen. My official job title is Office Manager but in reality I cover a wide range of tasks including PA to the Ambassador, maintaining the Embassy’s IT systems and dealing with the Diplomatic Mail.
What is your military role? What are you doing at the moment?
Over the last 10 years of service within the RNR I have completed many jobs both within my Unit, HMS Wildfire, and within my Branch, MTO (AWNIS). The most fulfilling role within my Unit was as the Command, Leadership and Management training officer. This is a great and varied subject and despite being the training officer, I was also constantly learning. The most fulfilling role with my Branch was as the Branch training officer and involved planning and arranging training weekends for members of the Branch. Both of those jobs came to an end when I was mobilised.
Why did you join the RNR? What do you enjoy about it?
The main reason I joined the RNR when I left the RN was because I loved the life in uniform, the people, the traditions and the opportunities. I think I have travelled to more places with the RNR than I could possibly have done otherwise. I think, in anything you do, it is the people around you who are most important and I have been extremely lucky to know and work with so many great like-minded people. Looking back at the proudest moments of my life to date all involve events where I am in uniform. The first was when I passed out of HMS Raleigh, standing on parade knowing that my family were in the audience watching. The second was when I passed out of BRNC Dartmouth as an officer, again with my family watching. Two other occasions include attending Remembrance Day ceremonies in honour and remembrance of those who gave their lives so that we are free to live ours and marching in uniform at the front of the parade for London Pride. I hope to be marching in London Pride in uniform again this year.
How accepting are people of you being a Reservist? How has the Reserves changed during your time in the RNR?
People are usually really interested to know and find out more about what I have been doing with the RNR. I’m not sure how much the Reserves has changed during my time although I certainly have. I joined the RNR as a junior Lieutenant and with hard work I was promoted and I’m currently a junior Lieutenant Commander. So the opportunities, training and jobs have changed with my progression over the years and up the ranks. Of course everyone changes roles but my Unit and Branch have been constants over the 10 year span. I think that there are definitely more opportunities to be mobilised. I vaguely remember early on in my RNR career wondering what the point of all the training was when we were never likely to get mobilised and only a couple of years later there are no so many opportunities which require my expertise as well as the occasional chance of being able to do something completely different as a role may only require that you are a certain rate or rank. I was very nearly mobilised to do a UN peace keeping role and that would have been amazing.
Name: Lieutenant Wendy Frame
From: Livingston, now lives in Gosport
Deputy Marine Engineering Officer on HMS Daring.
Lt Frame joined the Royal Navy as a rating in 1999 and was chosen for progression from the ranks to become an officer in 2012. She had a valuable role on HMS Daring during her humanitarian aid operation in offering disaster relief to the Philippines as part of Op Patwin. As well as using her leadership skills in coordinating the teams on the ground, Lt Frame helped to assess salination plants and broken generators to fix to supply of fresh water and electricity to the remote villages. Her team also helped to rebuild the engines of fishing boats – the only source of income for the islanders.
Please can you describe what your role was on Op Patwin? When you were deployed on the ground what did you do and how? How many people were you responsible for at any one time?
Following Typhoon Haiyan, my team were deployed onto the islands of Guintacan and Tabugan to survey the damage, prioritise and plan the necessary recovery and repair work, and then execute these plans to get the local community back on their feet. It was my job within the team to co-ordinate all of this work, making sure that the plans considered factors such as the personnel requirements, equipment we needed from our on-ship stores, and to make sure we could access specialist engineering resources.
With the necessary equipment on-shore, our focus then moved on to the re-building work, during which time my own activities ranged from assessing the repair work ongoing by my team of around 20 people - ensuring all tasks were completed in the allocated time - to repairing the only fresh water pump on the island of Tabugan which provided 67 families with drinking water.
What was it like on Op Patwin in terms of atmosphere, what you had to deal with, the reaction of the people you had come to help etc? Had you ever taken part in disaster relief before? What skills did you have to draw on – both professional and personal attributes?
It’s the memory of the people that really sticks in my mind.
The first island I went to, Guintacan, the local children were timid and shy but soon warmed to us, we were the first people to have visited the island in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. All of the local communities were extremely grateful for us being there and helping, they were keen to help move the stores and shelter packs and work alongside our teams to help re-build their community. They even used their motor bikes to take members of the ships company and DFID around the more remote parts of the island which ensured swift and effective assessments. Although they had little they were so grateful for assistance they were offering food, water and coffee to the teams.
This is the first time I’ve been involved in any form of disaster relief, so the worst fear was of the unknown, not knowing what we would be faced with when we landed on the islands; we were prepared for the worst but thankfully there were no mass fatalities and were greeted by extremely thankful and receptive communities. We arrived to the islands in an uncertain backdrop of unrest and social desperation, in oppressively hot conditions without shade, something the children of the island desperately seek. If you stood in one place long enough the children would sit in your shadow to escape from the blistering sun.
The hot, humid and unfamiliar environment proved challenging but, utilising the planning discipline that my time in the Navy has honed, I was able to organise manpower and equipment requirements, ensuring that all of the teams were rotated regularly to safeguard against exhaustion and heat stress. It was as important for me to monitor my team’s needs as much as the villagers’.
My engineering training was invaluable in surveying the scale of devastation and prioritising which tasks would be achievable within the time we had on the island. Some of the tasks required innovative thinking: I had to formulate the basis of the repair plan, mustering tools, stores, personnel and delegating to suitably experienced engineers to complete tasks, allowing me to conduct further assessments around the island.
Describe the role of Deputy Marine Engineering Officer – what do you do in simplistic terms?
I oversee the day to day running of the Marine Engineering department onboard HMS Daring, ensuring engineering standards are maintained. This is done by conducting machinery space rounds, raising the relevant paperwork for any defects that could have an impact on the operational capability of the ship.
I manage the medium term planning of the department allowing the Marine Engineering Officer to look at the longer term aims and objectives. My job varies and is dependant on the nature of defects and training environment we are in. I can be compiling risk mitigation documentation for proceeding to sea with defects to the propulsion plant one day to manning a Zone Control point at action as a damage control Officer. This is when the ship goes to action stations and I am in charge of a team that could hopefully fix any issues that arises – if we got hit by a missile for example we would be repairing the damaged areas.
I am the departmental training co-ordinator ensuring all members of the department progress with their training within the allocated time frame culminating with me chairing the Engineering Technicians oral examination and being a board member for other examinations.