After 25 years in operation, Lough Neagh Rescue is celebrating after marking another first in the history of the life-saving organisation.
The inspiring crew has appointed its first ever female training officer.
Ardboe mum-of-two Karen McNally passed her powerboat instructor’s training just two weeks ago, now she said she can’t wait to feed everything she learned back to her 24-strong crew.
She will lead training for the charity at LNR’s Ardboe station, from helping them to achieve their intermediate and advanced levels in lifesaving to ensuring their practical skills are up to scratch.
While admitting she has some big boots to fill, the 31-year-old told the Mail that as a woman, she thinks she will bring something new to the role.
And as for how she ended up here, she explained: “The current TO, which was Stephen Ryan and Senior Training Officer, which is Conor Corr, approached me because I had always taken an interest in the training of any new crew.
“It was something that I was always interested in doing - the training officer role.”
Now in position six months, Karen said she has passed all the courses she needs and is raring to get going.
“I recently sat my powerboat instructor’s course which allows me to instruct the powerboat 1 and 2 - the minimum of what we would want for any of our crew coming on board.
“As an instructor it’s a very long process, as you have to sit a pre-assessment to make sure you’re capable and then .
“You go through the whole training aspect of all your courses and what they involve, while also being able to instruct that - which is the harder part.
“It was very intense,” she added.
As for her new role, she explained: “It entails having a training plan, so I try to base it on a 12-week period. We would be thinking about the weather in the winter and we would be gearing it towards that, training in the dark - things like that.
“Coming into the summer we want to get out on the lough, get in around quays, areas that are that bit more dangerous and that you can’t do at night.
“I have to do out a plan that incorporates all that training and make sure that all the crew get what they need from where they start off.
“The first exam they would sit is their RYA one or two, so we work towards that. Learning about the boats, power boating,” she went on.
“You would then have your other crew, who are all at different stages, so you would have to help them reach their next goal while also trying to keep my own training up-to-date.”
Aside from that, the role might mean spending a few more hours away from home, but when asked, she said her husband is very proud of her.