The commander of the region’s ballistic missile tracking base is preparing to swap the rural isolation of the North York Moors for the busy streets of London.
Wing Commander Rayna Owens has been reposted to Whitehall, where she will work within the Ministry of Defence.
WC Owens began her posting at RAF Fylingdales in November 2011, making her the stations 27th commanding officer, and the second female to hold the post.
“It’s a beautiful part of the world, a unique mission and there are fantastic people here,” she said. “I couldn’t be more sad to go.”
Station commanders rarely stay at Fylingdales longer than a couple of years, but WC Owens said she will be sad to leave the North York Moors behind as the base is “probably the best” job in her branch of the Royal Air Force.
She added: “This place is quite different to other military bases in that it’s a real close-knit community here. North Yorkshire is now my spiritual home.”
When WC Owens began her posting at RAF Fylingdales she was thrust in at the deep end, having to host 30 politicians from across NATO as part of a defence committee within her first fortnight.
Since then, she has overseen a number of developments at the base, culminating in last year’s anniversary celebrations.
This was her proudest achievement, and WC Owens said: “I always knew the 50th was going to be a big event and I think we delivered fitting celebrations to recognise the landmark achievement. They were significantly more than you would expect from a team of our size, but that’s a marker of the team we have got.”
At the anniversary a new space science centre for schoolchildren was unveiled, while the reach of the base’s wildlife conservation efforts have been greatly expanded under her watchful eye.
“I have had so many fantastic opportunities, and I’ve done all sorts of whacky things,” she said. “I can always guarantee at the start of the week that I will never know what’s going to come up.”
A keen endurance runner, WC Owens has taken part in many races around the region, but also often joined the local mountain rescue, police or lifeboat teams on exercise.
Through this she has developed the station’s relationship within the nearby community. “A real privilege of the job here is meeting local people,” she said. “The thing which struck me is the warmth and the regard in which the local community hold us. It never ceases to amaze me how fascinated people are about what we do.”
Rayna Owens will be replaced by Wing Commander David Keighley, who has already served tours at RAF Fylingdales, starting in the mid-nineties.
Check out next week’s Gazette for our chat with the new station commander, but in the meantime WC Owens had some advice for her replacement.
She said: “When I came in I was going around saying ‘so how many station commanders have you seen?’ You can’t come here and do dramatic changes, instead you can nudge things in the right direction.
“There’s no manual which tells you how to be a station commander, but the reality is every day is different and you never know what’s going to come up.
“I’d tell him to enjoy his time and make the most of the opportunities presented. Don’t spend too much time behind your desk as it’s very easy to be a slave to email, but it’s much more fun to get out.”