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Navy sisters mark International Women's Day

Sisters in Arms
8 March 2022
Topic:
Two sisters have spoken of the range of opportunities the Royal Navy has offered them as they mark International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

The pair are now encouraging others to step into their shoes and embark on the time of their lives. 

Reflecting on their rewarding parallel careers, the sisters have shared their own experiences and insist that women should never limit their ambition in the Royal Navy. 

Older sister Anna planned on becoming a nurse from the tender age of 11 while her younger sister Karen dreamed of becoming an aviator. With a grandfather who served in the Royal Navy, both sisters were drawn towards military service. 

It was Anna who joined up first in 1997. At just 17 she enrolled as a nurse in the Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service, qualifying in 2000 and progressing to Chief Petty Officer rank before receiving a commission as a Nursing Officer.

Karen followed her sister into the Royal Navy in 2001 joining as a Warfare Officer and after basic training and a foreign exchange appointment at the French Naval College, served at sea in both warfare and ship navigation roles before qualifying as an Anti-Submarine Warfare specialist and Merlin Mk2 Helicopter operator.

While Anna was busy specialising as a theatre nurse, she enjoyed drafts to Haslar Hospital, RNH Gibraltar and MDHU Portsmouth in a variety of clinical settings.

She said: “I love being in the RN, I thrive on a challenge and have had some wonderful opportunities so far. As a wife and mum balancing both work and family can be challenging and I am grateful to my husband who is a key catalyst to my success, giving up his own career to be a full-time parent when we started a family.”

Anna has travelled extensively with the Navy, deploying on Exercise Green Serpent with Commando Forward Surgical Group and Exercise Medical Endeavour on RFA Argus in the ship’s role as a Primary Care Receiving Ship.

She also deployed as a theatre nurse within the Role 3 Medical Facility at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan experiencing the challenge of caring for the wounded casualties and treating combat injuries on operations.

She was instructing in pre-hospital care when she was promoted to Chief Petty Officer Naval Nurse.

I’m hugely passionate about promoting an inclusive culture and maximising everyone’s potential, so I found the work incredibly rewarding. The icing on the cake was when our brilliant team of volunteers and I were recognised as winners of the 2020 Women in Defence ‘Inclusive Teamwork’ Award. I was also given the huge honour of being appointed an MBE for the part I played.

Lt Cdr Karen Barnicoat

Meanwhile, Karen was getting training and battle staff experience travelling the world on ships to the Asia-Pacific region, United States, Mediterranean, Middle East, North Atlantic, North Sea and UK waters. She embarked in frigates, the helicopter carrier/assault ship HMS Ocean and aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Queen Elizabeth, as well as serving ashore in Oman.

Karen said: “I’ve enjoyed a huge variety of roles at sea, flying and in staff positions. Like Anna, I love a challenge, meeting new people and learning new things and the opportunities I’ve had have certainly ticked all of those boxes.

“From flying as an Aircrew Instructor, Flight Commander or Senior Observer, to serving at sea on a Battlestaff, in NCHQ as Flying Training Manager or more recently in MOD Whitehall as Military Assistant to the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel Capability), I’ve certainly been kept on my toes and had some fantastic experiences.”

The sisters have a shared experience of key Defence staff roles; when Anna’s youngest daughter was just two years old, in 2016 Anna was selected for the role of Military Assistant to the Defence Advisor based in Washington, USA. 

Anna said: “This role was a transformational learning curve for me and a great opportunity to broaden my knowledge of Defence diplomacy.”

Karen’s experience of working in Whitehall gave her the opportunity to instigate change and transform the Services in inclusive practices.

She added: “Whilst serving as a Military Assistant, I led a voluntary working group tasked with looking at how Defence can improve gender balance at the most senior levels of the military.

“I’m hugely passionate about promoting an inclusive culture and maximising everyone’s potential, so I found the work incredibly rewarding. The icing on the cake was when our brilliant team of volunteers and I were recognised as winners of the 2020 Women in Defence ‘Inclusive Teamwork’ Award. I was also given the huge honour of being appointed an MBE for the part I played.” 

The sisters insist similar opportunities in the Royal Navy exist for those who believe in themselves.

The Royal Navy has a thriving support Naval Servicewomen’s Network which is driven by women with a passion for developing policies and practices to improve the lived experience of women in the Royal Navy.

 

 

For more information on The Naval Servicewomen’s Network – see:

Facebook: Naval Servicewomen’s Network (Private Group for members)

Instagram: The_female_equivalent #Navalservicewomensnetwork 

Twitter: @navy_women   #ShareInspireEmpower

 

On the Defence Intranet, visit:

Naval Servicewomen's Network

Link to: https://modgovuk.sharepoint.com/sites/IntranetNavy/SitePages/Chiefs-Commitment-to-Maximise-Potential-update.aspx

Link to: https://modgovuk.sharepoint.com/teams/20992/SitePages/Royal-Navy%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98first-%E2%80%93-but-definitely-not-last%E2%80%99-female-admiral-takes-command.aspx

Link to: HCDC Report – Protecting Women in the Armed Forces: Fourth Special report

 

Read more here: "Royal Navy doubles training capacity for women to push for 25 per cent representation"

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