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Chief physical trainer at Culdrose reflects on WRNS 100

7 September 2017
As we look forward to celebrating 100 years of women working with or in the Royal Navy, each day this week we profile the work of some serving and ex-service female personnel at RNAS Culdrose and how the roles of female Naval personnel have changed in some of their lifetimes.

Chief Physical Training Instructor Donna Chapman is in charge of physical training at RNAS Culdrose.

As many look back at the 100 years of women working with and now in the Royal Navy, Donna realises that her role and opportunities have changed in her 15 years of service.

But she says that she does the best job in the world. 

Each generation has made great advances for more opportunities

Chief Physical Training Instructor Donna Chapman

Donna wanted to join the Royal Navy from a young age.

“I always wanted to travel so the RN was for right me. The opportunities are endless, you can travel and gain additional qualifications.

“Your employer wants you to be fit and healthy, so being sporty, that is perfect for me.

“There is also great support, camaraderie and the jobs are so varied and interesting.”

Donna was always sporty.  She represented her county at a number of sports as a child and always wanted to work in this field. 

When she joined the navy 15 years ago she wanted to gain experience at sea before becoming a physical trainer.

She joined as an underwater warfare specialist. Here she learnt a trade and gained valuable experience at sea.

She enjoyed being part of the operations department and went on many deployments.

Her love was always sport, so when she had the opportunity to transfer to physical trainer, she took it straight away.

Her daily life, whether at sea or ashore is very varied. No two days are the same and she loves getting people fit.

Her job is to train people so they can perform their role on the front line at sea, on a submarine or in the air.

Strength, flexibility and good cardio vascular fitness are all important. Naval personnel need to be fit for purpose; it is her job to make sure that happens.

Training people at sea can be challenging. The sessions have to fit in with the operational tasking, that is whatever the ship is tasked to do.

Sometimes the ship’s company are working so hard there is no time for sport.

Other times the ship or submarine needs to be very quiet, so exercise is not allowed. Space is often very limited, as is the trainer’s time.

On top of the physical training role, while at sea, personnel of Donna’s specialisation have other duties to perform, including driving the ship.

It is not all hard work for Donna. Her main sport is boxing and she has managed to travel to many countries as a navy boxer.

Although retired from the ring, she does still train for boxing and this keeps her very fit.

Donna looks back on the history of females working with the navy with great pride.

“I realise that many women have gone before me and their lives have been very different.

“Each generation has made great advances for more opportunities and equality. There is has been a lot of change in my 15 years and I’m sure there is more to come.

“I am thoroughly looking forward to the forth coming celebrations and look back with pride.”

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