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Naomi's messages prove to be a lifeline

PUBLISHED: 17:35 21 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:33 03 March 2010

WORRIED Suffolk parents with a daughter on a tour of duty in The Middle East told today how her daily messages are helping them to cope with fears for her safety.

WORRIED Suffolk parents with a daughter on a tour of duty in The Middle East told today how her daily messages are helping them to cope with fears for her safety.

Lieutenant Naomi Howard has been able to keep in touch with her parents in Ipswich by text messages, e-mail and phone calls. And with her ship on a state of high alert in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the USA, the contact is proving to be a lifeline for frantic loved ones.

"Obviously we are worried with her being in what could be a real hot bed of activity," said dad Les Howard, 54.

"We are in virtually daily contact so she is able to reassure us. It's nice that she is able to send text messages and she calls when she is off duty.

The 27-year-old naval officer is on board the survey vessel HMS Roebuck, one of the first ships to arrive in Oman as part of a planned exercise reinforcing the British government's commitment to stability in the Middle East.

However with the world now on a war footing in the wake of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre the operation has taken on a more sinister role. The Oman, at the mouth of the Gulf, is an area of strategic importance should retaliatory attacks against Afghanistan or other countries believed to be harbouring terrorists go ahead.

Mr Howard said that he and his wife Jan, 50, understand that their only daughter is part of a fighting unit and has a job to do.

"Obviously we have our concerns about her but if you join the Navy you don't join for a holiday to see the world. You know at some point you may be called upon to do your duty. She regards it as part of her job and her training."

Naomi, who has two brothers, is a former pupil of Copleston High School, in Ipswich, and went to sixth form at Woodbridge School. A trained hydrographer, she graduated from Manchester University and went on to complete an officer training course before joining the Navy four years ago.

She has travelled the world surveying areas for military purposes and was in Antarctica early this year.

Her vessel had just negotiated the Suez Canal when news of the terrorist attacks broke but it was not until a few days later when she arrived in Oman that she was able to contact her parents.

"Naomi doesn't seem particularly perturbed, it's not in her nature," added Mr Howard, a partner in Marriott Howard Publicity on Woodbridge Road.

"She is a matter of fact person and they have a job to do, but it was nice for her to talk to her mum and let her know that everything was alright."

The three mouth exercise in Omar is due to end in November however a spokesman for the Royal Navy has said that things could change depending on the outcome of events in the region.

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