It’s a huge responsibility, I’m honoured

HM Coastguards Julie-Ann Wood
HM Coastguards Julie-Ann Wood

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IN HER new role, Julie-Ann Wood will be in charge of the National Maritime Operations Centre, in Fareham, and the 10 Coastguard Operations Centres that co-ordinate search and rescue around the UK coast.

It is one of the most senior roles in HM Coastguard, part of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, and up until now, the role has always been held by a man.

Ms Wood began her career in the Welsh coastal town of Milford Haven in 1999 as a part-time coastguard watch assistant.

Before that, she ran her own business providing safety training to fishermen and merchant seamen.

An opportunity for a permanent coastguard watch assistant came up and in Ms Wood’s words, she ‘never looked back’.

Over the next nine years, she progressed through the ranks to watch officer, watch manager and then rescue co-ordination centre manager in 2008.

In 2011 her career changed direction and she fulfilled her long-term goal to become a coastguard technical trainer within the HR team.

In January she was appointed to her new post.

‘It’s a huge responsibility and a position that I’m very honoured to hold’, said Ms Wood.

‘What may have once been a male-dominated industry is very different these days.

‘The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has incorporated women in everything they do.

‘In my experience, there have been no restrictions.

‘I have never allowed my gender to get in the way of my career – that’s one of the great things about HM Coastguard.

‘The only limits on women are those that are imposed by themselves.

‘I am fortunate to be surrounded by an extraordinary team of strong women and men who are driven, talented and deliver an incredible service 24 hours a day.’

Despite her success, Julie-Anne has said that her proudest moments are still ingrained in bringing people home to their families.

‘Every rescue is different, but the feeling you get when we’ve rescued someone in their darkest hours still makes a huge impression on me emotionally.

‘There is no better feeling than seeing families reunited and know that you’ve played a part in that.’