Photographer Cathy Sharples has been all over the world thanks to her part-time career in the RAF reserves.

From the Netherlands to Northern Ireland and from Iceland to the Middle East, Cathy has travelled extensively in the last seven years since joining 614 Squadron, the only Royal Air Force Reserve unit in Wales.

During this time she has worked inside Buckingham Palace and twice volunteered to support the military response to the coronavirus pandemic by being mobilised as part of Operation Rescript.

First she commanded a mobile testing unit team in the West Midlands and then in February this year she took a senior role on a community testing programme in Greater Manchester, on both occasions being given the rank of acting Sergeant.

“I was proud to work alongside a fantastic team from 614 Squadron. I think we all felt privileged to be able to contribute towards the national effort against coronavirus,” said Cathy.

In her civilian life, Cathy, 47, a widow from Cardiff, is a freelance photographer – a job she complements with her role as a photographer as part of the Media Reserves in 614 Squadron.

“The military always appealed to me because of my interests in fitness and travel and the sense of camaraderie. Being in the RAF makes you feel part of a military family.

“In my time as an RAF photographer I’ve travelled widely providing media support to operations and exercises around the world. I’ve also had the privilege to work inside Buckingham Palace.

“I was already working as a photographer when I joined the RAF, but they’ve given me training in videography which is now a big part of my role.  During the RAF’s centenary year, I curated a photography exhibition highlighting the role that women have played in the air force since 1918.

“Apart from the skills you learn within your trade, the reserves provides you with skills such as team working, leadership, organisation and planning.”

And so today Cathy along with 2,170 other reserves in Wales will be celebrating Reserves Day.

Reservist commit to a minimum of 27 days service a year. They come from diverse backgrounds and give up their spare time to train and serve alongside regular personnel in the Armed Forces. Playing a vital role they make up approximately one sixth of the country’s Armed Forces personnel.

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