When Natasha Mason joined the Navy in 1994, she knew she would be entering a male-dominated world, but the opportunity to travel the world felt too exciting to pass up on.
This International Women’s Day, Help for Heroes are celebrating female Service Personnel and Veterans and highlighting what can be achieved within the military.
Within the past year, the UK Armed Forces opened all roles to women – including roles within the Special Forces and the Royal Marines.
Natasha Mason’s naval career saw her cross the globe as a Weapons Engineer – ensuring that the ships weapons systems were fully operational and can deal with any potential threat.
“When we were in the Gulf area, our ship was tasked with getting the Royal Marines into Afghanistan and various operations. All the training we get, it’s all for moments like this. When we took part in the evacuation of British Personnel from Beirut, we could hear mortars and gunfire as we did so, it makes everything very real.”
When Natasha was serving, not only could women not apply for every role in the Armed Forces, but women were still relatively new on all ships: “The ratio difference between men and women was huge, there were 1200 on the ship and only around 100 were women. There were some men that didn’t want us there, but that only made me want to prove myself more.”
“I think as time has gone on, this has become better. My attitude was ‘I don’t care what you think, I’m here to stay.’”
Others like Natasha have proved that women are more than capable to take on complex roles within the military, “Being a woman means we can be just as independent and fearless. Gender shouldn’t get in the way.”
Natasha made her mark and served for 19 years – during this time she had a son, Harry. “It was difficult to be a single parent whilst serving, but my parents are remarkable and helped me throughout. I couldn’t have done this without my family.”
Natasha’s career was cut short after an injury led her to being medically discharged – now physically unable to transition into the careers she’d considered previously, Natasha decided to pursue her interest in Law and undertook a Law Degree at Plymouth University.
“Without my Naval career, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to apply and I don’t think I could have afforded my University fees either. I don’t think I would have even considered it.”
Two years into her studies, Natasha was offered a role at Wolferstans Solicitors as a Paralegal and on completion of her law degree and masters in professional legal practice was then offered the position of Trainee Solicitor; using her military background, Natasha is working as their Armed Forces Co-ordinator – offering free initial legal advice and signposting and also looking at overcoming difficulties service personnel may have – such as how to access advice whilst serving on a ship.
It was through working with different charities and organisations that Natasha got in touch with Help for Heroes “I didn’t feel like I was injured enough but Help for Heroes have been so supportive. I don’t need complex support, but I’ve been given physiotherapy and hydrotherapy to help my injuries. They are always there for me if I’m having a down day and give me the boost I need.”
“I’m giving back to Help for Heroes by offering initial advice and signposting through Wolferstans Solicitors with a free monthly clinic to wounded, injured and sick service personnel and Veterans – so if they need help with injury claims and compensation we can help.”
As well as supporting other Veterans through work, Natasha is the lead for the Plymouth Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club aiming to reduce social isolation and promote friendship.
Due to qualify as a solicitor in October 2019, she is currently the Vice Chair of the Forces Law Network; Natasha is delighted that she will take over the role of Chairperson in April: “I’ll look at moving the Network even further forward and making it more accessible for Service Personnel and Veterans.”
“A few years ago, when I was injured, I never thought I’d be a solicitor and I never thought I’d have achieved this.”