Army explosives expert scoops Special Award

Warrant Officer 2 Kay Howells has won the Special Award at the Women in Defence UK Awards.  First held in 2016, the Awards celebrate incredible work, provide inspiration and promote the value of women in the defence sector.

Special Award Winner - WO2 Kay Howells

Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Kay Howells is an exceptionally skilled explosive ordnance engineer and Ammunition Technician. Having joined the Army in 2004 with no background in engineering WO2 Howells enrolled in her Ammunition Technician training, learning all the skills she would need to safely handle, store and dispose of ammunition. This apprenticeship training set the foundation for her to go on and reach the pinnacle of her trade as an Advanced Manual Techniques Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) operator.

Currently one of the British Army’s most highly skilled bomb disposal operators WO2 Howells is not only trained to deal with unexploded bombs but also to safely dispose of improvised explosive devices (IED) in a hostile environment, including devices that could contain a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) threat. Through her training and experience she can safely analyse and diagnose a range of sophisticated improvised devices and then use her technical knowledge to render them safe.

Demonstrating the awards category criteria

Life has not been plain sailing for WO2 Howells; having broken her back early in her career she had to undergo extensive surgery. At the time of her injury the thought of operating in a 40kg bomb suit would have been far from her mind. It is only through her determination and mental resilience that she overcame this set back and went on to complete her Advanced EOD Operator course enabling her to continue in her chosen technical trade and go on to be one of the most experienced and technically competent EOD operators in the Army.

In a military that has only just opened all roles to women WO2 Howells has proven herself on the front lines of Afghanistan conducting high threat bomb disposal and more recently in Iraq using her technical expertise as a weapons intelligence operator. She has lived and fought in incredibly harsh conditions, overcoming both the elements and the enemy to keep her fellow soldiers and local civilians safe from the threat of IEDs.

Results achieved

Due to her technical skill and expertise she was selected to be the leader of the advanced counter IED team at Defence’s Explosives, Munitions and Search School. Here she taught the next generation of EOD operators and acted as a role model to the young female soldiers going through training. As the team leader she actively encouraged other women to pursue the Ammunition Technician trade. WO2 Howells proved that not only could women be bomb disposal operators but that they could be the best.

Not content to only encourage serving women WO2 Howells has visited local schools as part of a GINI equality initiative to encourage young women into engineering and technical trades. She is an inspiration to the next generation of female engineers and technician.

The Special Award is for achievements that do not fit directly under one of the other categories and it includes the key element of overcoming adversity. 

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