Let me introduce myself. My name is Catherine Fearon and I am Water Quality Regulation Manager for Anglian Water, currently seconded to the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), our water quality regulator, for 6 months and also a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy Reserves (RNR).
On this ‘Reserves Day’, which is part of Armed Forces week, I thought I would just explain how I got involved in the RNR, nearly 18 years ago and why I enjoy it so much. I grew up in a naval family as my Dad was in the submarine service for 22 years and when he left the Royal Navy (RN) he took me down to the local Sea Cadet unit, the same one he attended when he was 11 and I got the bug. I really loved the Sea Cadets and stayed with them until I was 26 being a petty officer instructor from 18.
I had always wanted to be in the Royal Navy but after University I found it difficult to join and a few years later I joined the RNR instead in Nottingham. This was whilst I was working for Anglian Water at an advanced water treatment plant that both AW and Severn Trent were jointly funding. My career in drinking water quality then took me south and I transferred RNR units to HMS President in St Katharine’s Docks, London for whom I am still serving.
Being in the RNR gives me the best of both worlds. I have all the opportunities that the full time Navy have and we are trained to the same standard so we can do the same jobs but I also get to have an enjoyable career in “civvie” street. I have been very lucky whilst working for the water industry to have had very supportive employers and all of them have given me two weeks extra paid leave to do my annual training. It would be very difficult to commit to the RNR if this was not the case so I am very grateful. The rest of my RNR time is made up of weekends and some Tuesday evenings.
The easiest way to describe my operational role in the Navy is as a liaison officer between the commercial merchant shipping and the RN. I also advise both parties on navigational safety a subject I really enjoy and I generally go to sea once a year as part of NATO Exercises. Anglian Water actually supported my mobilisation to Op Olympics, in 2012 for 3 months, where I was based at the Port of London in Gravesend undertaking maritime security on the Thames. I have also been very fortunate to have been deployed to many areas of the world and on many different nations’ military ships. It is very different to what I do at Anglian Water so it actually gives me a real break, however the skills like leadership and problem solving, I develop in both roles are easily transferable. I do however sometimes call my managers “Sir or Ma’am” when I return from my 2 weeks away!
If you have some spare time, want to do something worthwhile for your country and something that gives you endless exciting opportunities, which you get paid for, then I would definitely recommend getting involved in the RNR, Army Reserves or Air Force Reserves. Do get in touch if you have any questions.