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WRAC Association welcomes new Vice President, Chair of Membership Council and Chief Operating Officer

The Board of Trustees, Membership Council and Members of the WRAC Association are pleased to announce the appointment of three new people to the posts of Vice President, Chair of Membership Council and Chief Operating Officer.

In line with the Trustees Strategic Review carried out 2019/20, and Col (Rtd) Ali Brown’s decision to stand down as Vice President of the WRAC Association after seven years of sterling service in March this year, the Association is pleased to announce the appointment of Brig (Rtd) Fiona Gardner CBE as the Association Vice-president, Lt Col (Rtd) Rowena Naile MBE as Chair of the Membership Council and Paula Rogers as Chief Operating Officer.  Fiona and Rowena took up their new offices after the March 2021 AGM, and Paula joined the team in early May.

Cobseo members may already know of both Fiona and Rowena, and it is likely you will have come across some of Paula’s past work with military charities and museums, or the BBC.  We are pleased to share a short introduction to each of them below.

Brig (Rtd) Fiona Gardner CBE

Fiona commissioned into the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1986, and on disbandment in 1992 transferred to the Royal Corps of Transport and subsequently the Royal Logistic Corps.  Career highlights include being a young Captain in Berlin when the Wall came down, commanding 19 Tank Transporter Squadron RLC on Operation AGRICOLA in Kosovo, and commanding the Northern Ireland Combat Service Support Regiment.  She had numerous staff appointments in the Personnel field including Deputy Chief of Staff of the 5th Division, Army Pay Colonel and Deputy

Head Service and Veterans Welfare.  As a Brigadier she was Head of People Strategy in the Ministry of Defence, which included the lead for the introduction of Flexible Service into the Armed Forces. Her final tour was as Brigadier Army Staff in Army HQ.

She was awarded the CBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List, is a Fellow of the CIPD and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Carmen and the City of London.

She served 4 years on the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Grants Committee and was a lay member on the Independent Medical Expert Group; a Non-Departmental Public Body advising on Armed Forces compensation.  Since completing 34 years Regular Service she has been active on the Army Service Complaints Appeal Panel, and became a Trustee of the WRAC Association in February 2020.  She has been a member of the Trustee Strategy Review Team and assumed the appointment of Vice President and Chair of Trustees in March 2021.

Lt Col (Rtd) Rowena Naile MBE

Rowena joined the Army in 1983 as a member of WRAC(V) through Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt Officer Training Corps.  She completed officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1986, and was commissioned into the WRAC.  She carried out 4 postings whilst in the WRAC, transferring to the AGC(SPS) when the WRAC was disbanded in 1992.

Postings and major projects included: Regimental Administrative Office with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, serving in Bulford, Bosnia and Weeton (after which she went on maternity leave, being one of the first females able to remain in the army having had a child); Pay 2000, Joint Personnel Administration and the New Employment Model; and, one of her highlights, Commanding B Company at the Army Training Regiment Winchester.  Keen to serve abroad, she took tours of duty in Kathmandu and Paderborn Garrison, completing her service with a NATO appointment in Stavanger, Norway.  Rowena was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honour List for her work as Chief of Staff Rear Operations Group for Operation Herrick 15.

Rowena served as a Trustee for the WRAC Association from 2006 to 2008, returning as a Trustee when she came back to Europe in 2011 and taking over as Chairman of the Executive and Finance Committee in 2014.  Her work for the Association has always been of great importance to her – she is a member of the Winchester Branch, has attended many Grand Reunions, commanded the Parade at the Reunions, and led the Association Contingent at the Cenotaph on a number of occasions.

On retirement from the Army, Rowena took up various voluntary work opportunities including with SSAFA, Romsey Abbey, The Scout Association, and Romsey Hospital League of Friends.

She is a keen sportswoman with a passion for orienteering and running – from 5km up to 50-mile ultra-marathons.  She has run for the WRAC Lionesses raising funds for the Association at 10km events, and is a member of the WRAC Veterans Cycle Group.

Paula Rogers

Paula joins the Association into the new role of Chief Operating Officer at an exciting time of development for the WRAC.

Paula began her career as a BBC Radio presenter and producer – 15 years which included producing programmes for some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry and two years at the helm of Children In Need.  Moving to HM Prison Service, Paula took up the role of Head of Prison Radio, managing the technical roll-out and devising the schedule and content of the new National Prison Radio Service.  A bold scheme which met with much scepticism at the time, the radio station is now a much respected and multi award-winning tool in the education and rehabilitation of offenders.

Paula left full-time employment to start her own consultancy and give more time to her family.  As the daughter of a retired RAF Group Captain she began consulting for RAF charities and the RAF Museum, going on to work with the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall, and with Help For Heroes at Catterick Garrison with which she published a children’s storybook aimed at supporting the children of injured Service personnel.  Prior to Covid-19 she was part of a charity which took D-Day veterans back to Normandy each June.

Paula has served as a Trustee on the Board of two national charities and currently Chairs a local charity supporting older people with multiple needs.  She is looking forward to working with the Vice President and Board of Trustees on the Association’s strategic direction.

Fiona, Rowena and Paula all look forward to working with other Cobseo members.  Fiona and Paula will be particularly involved with the Female Veterans Cluster Group, helping to take that work forward.  All the other WRAC Association Trustees and staff that Cobseo members may have interacted with in the past remain in their various specialist posts.

At its March AGM the Association thanked Col (Rtd) Ali Brown for her past support and enthusiasm, it also being noted that

Everyone is in awe of her commitment and her exceptional contribution.  The charity is in an excellent position for the future, reflecting the huge value added by Ali through her knowledge, vision and dedication”. 

Ali accepted the Association’s invitation to become a Life Vice President.

Our Executive Members

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