Prestigious award for ‘the mother of the navy’

Lt Cooley
Lt Cooley
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THE only female sailor on board the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll has received a rare honour after a recent stopover in Nigeria.

Lieutenant Jeannine Cooley, who lives in Portsmouth, paid a visit to Lagos as part of her deployment with the Devonport-based ship.

During the visit, a small delegation from the ship took part in a conference on maritime security hosted by the world-renowned Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.

The institute was so impressed by Lt Cooley that after the discussions, she was made an honorary member of the organisation.

The 34-year-old said: ‘I’m really honoured and privileged to have been awarded such a prestigious membership.

‘I never expected it. I’m just a normal girl doing my job as part of Argyll’s crew.’

HMS Argyll is one of the few ships in the Royal Navy which has not yet had the necessary upgrades to be able to take on female sailors.

The Type 23 frigate can currently only embark a small number of female officers and at the time of the Lagos visit, Lt Cooley was the only one on board.

Nigerian naval officers who visited the ship were surprised to find Lt Cooley was the only female on board and nicknamed her the ‘mother of the navy’.

Lt Cooley was presented with her honorary membership by the institute’s director, General Professor Bola A Akinterinwa.

The officer is normally employed within the operations room as one of the three principal warfare officers on board.

She is responsible for directing a team of operators to find, track and destroy targets in the air, on the surface and underwater.

Lt Cooley joined the navy in 2002 and has previously served in Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigates HMS Iron Duke and HMS Richmond.

She lives in Portsmouth with her partner, Jennifer.

The Nigerian Institute of International Affairs was established in 1961, to provide ideas on what direction Nigeria should follow on international policies.

HMS Argyll continues to work with other nations to develop a partnership in the fight against drugs trafficking, illegal fishing and people smuggling.

Commander Tim Neild, Argyll’s commanding officer, said: ‘Hopefully, the conference will lead to an increased understanding of the current maritime security situation off the West African coast and some of the key players in attendance can move forward with some of the ideas presented.’