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Meet Kenya Navy’s first woman to steer a warship

 Major Faith Mwagandi aboard an off-shore patrol ship at a Kenya Navy base in Mombasa (Maarufu Mohamed)

When Faith Mwagandi was admitted to Kenyatta University for a Bachelor of Arts degree, it came as a shocker.

In high school at Moi Girls Eldoret, she had scored impressive As and was hoping for a career in medicine. Instead, she ended up being selected by the Joint Admissions Board to pursue a general degree course.

She spent a mere three weeks at the university before a newspaper advertisement calling for candidates to enlist as cadets in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) caught her attention.

‘’I was eager for a quick career change after my disappointment in being left out to do medicine. The military, which was not a familiar territory for me at all, was my next target,’’ Major Mwagandi said in an interview aboard KNS Shujaa.

Maj Mwagandi from Magarini Sub-county in Kilifi was successful in her bid for cadet enlistment and got a call up to report for training at the Kenya Military Academy in Lanet in 2007.

 Major Mwagandi briefing soldiers aboard KNS Shujaa (Maarufu Mohamed)

During her cadet training, she attained a diploma in Military Science and would later, after a stint in the military, attain a degree through distance learning from Egerton University.

In her military career progression, Mwagandi, who is married and has a five-year-old daughter, trained locally and abroad with stints at both the Kenya Navy headquarters in Mtongwe, Mombasa and Manda Navy Base in Lamu for her junior officer conversion courses.

“During the conversion training, we attended both class work, went to sea and did administrative training,” she said.

Her first ship was the KNS Galana, a supply and logistic vessel of the Kenya Navy, where she was a trainee cadet.

She would turn out to be the best student in her class and got an opportunity to attend the prestigious Brittania Royal Naval College in May 2010 for the Royal Navy Young Officers’ course.

‘’Here, the course duration was seven months with four involving going out to sea for navigation practicals and sea manoeuvres. “We trained along the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and in Belgium,” she said.

Maj Mwagandi sailed aboard HMS Bulwak, a Landing Platform Dock that was extensively used for training.

During her training in the UK, Mwagandi, then a Lieutenant, underwent extensive practical application of naval training, leadership, command and management.

She returned home in 2010 and was posted to the Kenya Navy Training School as an instructor.

Mwagandi would later do duty aboard Kenya’s first research vessel, the RV Mtafiti owned by the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute, but fully manned by the Kenya Navy, as a navigating officer between 2016 and 2017.

Her next stop was at the KNS Shujaa, where she was deployed as a principal warfare officer in 2017.

 Major Mwagandi is currently in Somalia undertaking Amisom duties aboard KNS Shupavu (Maarufu Mohamed)

She was part of the naval crew making her maiden voyage after the ship underwent a mid-life refit in the Netherlands.

Mwagandi is currently in active Amisom duties in Somalia assigned aboard KNS Shupavu, where she got extra roles.

The officer urged women keen on taking up a career in the Navy to step forward and take up the challenge.

“KDF offers equal opportunities for all genders and does not discriminate,’’ she said.

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