claire nixon

Claire Nixon | RAF

I joined the Royal Air Force in 2008 after completing a degree in Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Fascinated by psychology and social anthropology, I joined the RAF as a Training Officer – a specialisation dedicated to the development of personnel. Within this role, I have been privileged to provide training design and delivery support to a wide range of organisations. Whether leading a design team within the School of Physical Training, managing instructors at a multi-role Reservist Sqn or providing training policy advice to aircrew, I am constantly inspired by the depth of talent and passion driving training forwards in today’s military.

In addition to my day job, I am also passionate about military sport and am a member of the RAF Athletics and Combined Services Ski Race Teams. Whilst hugely privileged to compete at this level, I am most proud to be Captain of the RAF Ladies Ski Team. I love being able to promote the physical and psychological benefits of the sport, share an incredible opportunity and be part of an inspirational team.

Sarah Cotman

Sarah Cotman | RAF

 Flight Sergeant | Royal Air Force

Sarah Cotman is a Royal Air Force specialist surgical nurse.  She is currently the Specialist Nurse Advisor for Surgery for the RAF and has worked tirelessly to improve the surgical nursing practice within Defence.  She works clinically as a Surgical Emergency Nurse Practitioner with a major UK trauma centre. Alongside this day job, she is the Sports Allies Programme Lead for RAF Freedom Network. She works across the RAF to improve inclusion and access to sport for all. With a specialist interest in improving LGBT and Female representation across the sporting communities. She works with leading RAF Sports facilities to promote positive messaging and support to LGBT personnel and gender equity for anyone wishing to engage in Service sports.


Rising Star in Defence Shortlist 2016


Natalie Grainger

Natalie Grainger | Naval Air Squadron

 Helicopter Pilot | Royal Navy, Ministry of Defence

I grew up on Guernsey and at 19 I decided to join the Royal Navy. I joined to become a pilot and it took almost four years of training to become qualified as a frontline helicopter pilot. I joined the Commando Helicopter Force and I have been fortunate to fly all over the world; Norway, California, Afghanistan, Jordan, and all over Europe. I would say I’m one of a handful of female pilots in the Navy, but I can’t say it’s ever effected my progression, I’m a firm believer that you get out what you put in and hard work always pays dividends. I have been in the Royal Navy for over 8 years now and I am excited to see what further opportunities the Navy will offer. In my spare time I enjoy all things active; wakeboarding, snowboarding, cycling, mountain biking and running.


Rising Star in Defence Shortlist 2016


Hayley Barnden

Hayley Barnden | Ministry of Defence

Safety Engineer | Ministry of Defence | Defense


My name is Hayley Barnden, I’m 28 years old and I currently work as a Submarine Safety Engineer for the Ministry of Defence.

I got this role through an Advanced Apprenticeship in Engineering Management which I started in September 2010. During the course of my apprenticeship I won two awards, the first – the Elvy and Coast Charity Award – for my dedication to self-improvement and development over the year; the second the Sir David Cardwell Memorial Prize awarded to a final year apprentice that has successfully completed their scheme and overcome great difficulty during the course of their apprenticeship.

In the my apprenticeship I became a STEM Ambassador, a role that I thoroughly enjoy and still continue to regularly attend events four years later. After completing my apprenticeship I took up a role as a Submarine Safety engineer, achieving promotion after 16 months.

In addition to my day job I am passionate about diversity and inclusion, and am co-chair of both my employers LGBT network and InterEngineering South West a grass-roots initiative to help attract, support and retain LGBT engineers, along with their straight allies.

I am currently studying part-time towards my Electronics degree at the University of West England.

Rising Star Champion 2016 Shortlist

Lt Cdr Victoria Percival, MEO, HMS Defender Lt Cdr Percival is the Marine Engineering Officer(MEO) of HMS DEFENDER, a Portsmouth based Type 45 Daring Class Destroyer. Consent form held FRPU(E)

Victoria Percival-Weil | Royal Navy

 Marine Engineer Officer, HMS DEFENDER | Royal Navy

Graduating from the University of Bath (Mechanical Engineering), Victoria joined the Royal Navy in 2005. Following professional training she was assigned as the Deputy Marine Engineer Officer of HMS EDINBURGH, deploying on Operation ORION 08 to the Far East.

After this exciting and challenging tour, she studied for an MSc in Naval Architecture at UCL. Passing with Distinction, she took a Safety Regulation role responsible for Escape and Evacuation assurance of all MOD water-borne platforms.

Returning from maternity leave, Victoria was selected for promotion and appointed to T45 Destroyer HMS DEFENDER. As Marine Engineer Officer she has led her engineering department of 45 personnel through a short notice Operational Training programme and deployment to the Gulf.

Proud Mum to a three year-old, Victoria loves her husband and rugby in equal measure. She has represented the Combined Services and Royal Navy throughout her career, serving as Navy Captain for three seasons.


Rising Star in Defence Shortlist 2016


Lowenna Smith

Lowenna Smith | Ministry of Defence

 Cost Estimator | MOD

After my PhD in solid state experimental physics I worked first as a  research officer then as a teaching fellow, lecturing undergraduate physics. I presented my work at several international conferences and published high impact papers. Whilst working as a teaching fellow, I concurrently worked as a freelance journalist writing for national cycling magazines; one of my great passions is cycling, where I race at a national level and have been chair of my local club. This broad foundation proved to be a fantastic platform for when I moved out of academia and into the defence sector. I currently work in the fast moving and complex tactical communications environment, where I have identified substantial saving for the taxpayer. I continue to mentor a wide range of individuals to achieving their personal and professional objectives. Outside of work I am currently training for a two day, 100km run along the Ridgeway.


Sherry Conway

Sherry McBain | RAF

 Staff Officer in charge of Operational Commitments and Training | Royal Air Force

Squadron Leader Sherry McBain is an RAF Nursing Officer and a team leader on the Critical Care Air Support Team (CCAST). She repatriates critically ill or injured patients from global locations and she specialises in the care and safe transfer of patients with brain injuries. McBain holds the position of co-deputy chair of the RAF LGBT FREEDOM Network. In this voluntary role she is passionate and focused on improving the lived experience for the RAF LGBT community and educating the wider RAF about these challenges A driven, passionate and inspiring woman, she strives to be a visible role model to women and the LGBT community within and external to defence. McBain is also a school role model for two charities, Stonewall and Diversity Role Models.


Portraits Studio Portrais of Lieutenant Laura Deetz and LSE Gaz Edwards

Laura Dietz | Royal Navy

 Air Engineer Officer | Royal Navy

Laura joined the Royal Navy (RN) in 2006, following her Mechanical Engineering studies at Newcastle University. Following her training she has served on various Naval Air Squadrons; and deployed and embarked onboard various RFA/RN Ships. Outside of the engineering domain she spent two years at Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College mentoring future defence Engineering/Technical Officers; and 6mths at Camp Bastion within the Media Operations Cell. On return to the UK she was employed within the Merlin Helicopter Project Team where she was the Engineering Authority for all Apache and Merlin Helicopter engines. She has most recently moved to the RN Release to Service Authority (RTSA) where she is the RTS Manager for all Merlin helicopters and RN Historic Flight aircraft.

She is a passionate STEM Ambassador and travels around the UK encouraging future generations into such careers - in particular her focus is on breaking down the invisible barriers for females.


Clare Trenholm

Clare Trenholm | Central Government

 Secretariat | Central Government

I am a Bristol-based civil servant, yoga teacher, and psychology enthusiast. Starting as a regional journalist in Liverpool, my highlights included interviewing the Attorney General and Kylie Minogue…not on the same day. I’ve had a number of PR roles, some days teaching diverse cultural groups how to sell themselves to media, and other days telling the press about anything from sheds to anti-smoking campaigns. A quick segue into running my own business as a comms consultant and media trainer, a few years running a press office newsdesk at the Health and Safety Executive and now I write to and from Ministers for Central Government. Outside work I sing at Clifton Cathedral, I’ve recently qualified as a Hatha yoga teacher, leading classes when I can, and I am currently studying for an MSc in Strategy, Change and Leadership at the University of Bristol.


Sarah Stevens

Sarah Stevens | Royal Fleet Auxiliary

 Officer Cadet | Royal Fleet Auxiliary

Sarah has been an Officer Cadet in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) for 2.5 years and is currently undertaking the final phase of her training at sea before sitting her oral board at the end of the year. In addition to representing the RFA in both the RN COMPASS and Naval Servicewomen committees, she regularly writes articles for Nautilus International, the Defence Intranet and the charity Human Rights at Sea. Sarah is passionate about diversity and inclusion and is keen to improve the visibility of the RFA within the MOD and the RN, bringing the specific issues that the LGBT and female RFA personnel face at sea to the forefront. In her spare time Sarah volunteers as a Special Constable in the North West of England.