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For an entire year, blisters, ankle strains, knee pains, push-ups and spending sleepless nights in the bushes without taking a bath for days was part of Nobuhle Cele's life at the navy training camp.
She has trained alongside men and reached the same level of fitness.
Today Cele, 22, who has dreamt of working in the navy since she was a child, wears her navy uniform with pride and is ready to take up any emergency as she proudly takes part in peace keeping missions.
As one of the only two female surface weapons operators at the naval station in Durban, Cele, of Umlazi in Durban, finds joy in saving lives and has proven that with focus and determination every woman can live her dream. She now dreams of becoming the first black woman to command a ship.
Q: What is it like being a surface weapons operator?
A: It's tremendous. Apart from participating in peace-keeping missions in our neighbouring countries, we look out for any illegal activity at sea such as pirates and other threats. As I specialised in weapons operation in the ship, I can also shoot when it is necessary.
Q: What challenges did you encounter during your training?
A: At times we had to go for days without a bath. The training itself was difficult, but because I was determined to make it, not only for myself but for other women as well, I endured all the hardships. At the end my determination paid off.
Q: What was the most exciting part of your training?
A: Stripping weapons and being able to operate the different kinds of weapons in the ship.
Q: Were you treated differently because you are a woman?
A: Not at all. There was no special treatment. I did all the exercises just like everybody else, but there were times when I had to work twice as hard.
Q: Were there times when you felt like quitting?
A: Yes. The training was difficult. Some women quit when the training got tough, but I persevered because I wanted to live my dream.
Q: Have you ever experienced any scary moments?
A: Yes, it is quite scary when the sea gets rough. It was even more scary when I had to steer the ship myself, but I managed.
Q: What qualities are needed for one to become a navy personnel?
A: Discipline. Everything here is about discipline. If you don't have discipline and respect for your colleagues then you won't make it here.
Q: What advice would you give to women wishing to join the navy?
A: I'd say go for it. Nothing is impossible and know that no dream is out of reach.