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A Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) officer from Bridport is currently in the Caribbean on board RFA Wave Ruler, ready to provide humanitarian aid should it be needed during hurricane season and attempting to stem the narcotics trade in that area.
First Officer Kelly-Jane Taylor, 35, is the Logistics Officer on board Wave Ruler, which is an oil and stores replenishment vessel capable of carrying nearly 17,000 tonnes of fuel and 915 tonnes of dry goods. She is one of only two female First Officers in the entire RFA fleet.
Kelly has been in the RFA for 12 years and her role includes managing personnel, catering and stores, plus much of the ship's external administration, dealing with outside authorities while on deployment.
Educated at Sir John Colfox School, she has previously served on operations in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, though she has also visited the Falklands, Africa and the Middle East over the years.
Here, she explains more about her fascinating job on the other side of the Atlantic: "We have been in Grand Cayman, loading disaster relief stores from the Red Cross, which consist of shelter kits for up to 2000 families. We assisted the people of this island back in 2004 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, and again in Cayman Brac after Hurrican Paloma in 2008.
"Whilst at sea, the ship conducts maritime patrols working with various agencies and nations particularly aimed at countering drug trafficking in the Caribbean region."
She continued: "RFA Wave Ruler is well placed to provide first aid humanitarian and technical assistance, using our well trained crew. We have an extensive range of disaster relief stores and on-board logistics capable of providing food, water and shelter. It's hard work and not at all like anyone's idea of a Caribbean cruise, but I really enjoy my job and seeing the varying cultures around the world."
RFA Wave Ruler has a crew of 80 and in recent years seized approximately 11 tonnes of drugs during counter-narcotic boarding operations in the Caribbean area.
Along with her sister ship, RFA Wave Knight, she was built in Glasgow, has a displacement of 31,500 tonnes and is capable of speeds of up to 21 knots. The vessel can issue 16,000 cubic metres of diesel and aviation fuel and has a flight deck and hanger to support helicopter operations. She can also carry an embarked force of Royal Marines who specialise in boarding operations and above water force protection.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service (RFA) is a civilian manned fleet, owned by the Ministry of Defence. Its main task is to supply warships of the Royal Navy at sea with fuel, food; stores and ammunition which they need to remain operational while away from base. It also provides aviation support for the Royal Navy, together with amphibious support and secure sea transport for Army units and their equipment.
The RFA is managed by the Commodore RFA who is directly responsible to Commander in Chief Fleet, as a Fleet Type Commander, for the day to day administration and operation of the RFA Flotilla.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service was constituted in 1905. It began by carrying coal bunkers and other stores, acquiring a tanker fleet as British warships became oil burning during World War I. The RFA saw service in every naval theatre of operations (from the Arctic to the Pacific) in the Second World War, including the Maltese, Russian and other convoys. Since then it has supported the Royal Navy and the Army in Korea, Suez, Cyprus, Beira, Kuwait, Borneo, Belize, and Aden and in the Icelandic Wars. During the Falklands Conflict in 1982, the RFA spearheaded logistic support for the Task Force, losing RFA Sir Galahad to heavy air attack at Fitzroy.
Throughout its history RFA officers and men have distinguished themselves, many being decorated for their gallantry and fortitude. More recently, the RFA played a fundamental role in the Gulf War supporting the British task Force and in the Adriatic supporting the UN Task Force.
The RFA employs over 2000 civilian officers and ratings, and is one of the biggest employers in British Shipping. UK personnel serve under RFA conditions of service which contain clauses that take account of the Service centered around replenishment at sea, and also provide that the crew stay with the ship in the event of its being directed to an area where warlike hazards may arise. Personnel follow the traditional training paths of their Merchant Navy counterparts to obtain professional qualifications, but with a substantial overlay of Navy training to develop the skills needed in an operational environment. Many RFA ships carry naval or military parties for tasks such as the operation and maintenance of helicopters.
RFAs are distinguished by their grey colour and their flag, the blue ensign defaced by an upright gold anchor. There are 16 ships in the RFA fleet; six Fleet and Support tankers, two Dry Cargo Fleet Replenishment Ships, two combined fuel and stores replenishment ship, four Landing ship's Dock, one Forward Repair Ship and RFA Argus a Principal casualty Reception ship and an Aviation Training Ship.