Did you always want to join the Army?
Absolutely! When I was younger, I was really keen to join the Army and applied for the TA which I was disappointed to find out I was not eligible for, which was a blessing in disguise as it pushed me to apply to the Army, and I was successful at selection. Shortly after I graduated from university, I started my training in 2009 and then became part of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
It’s almost impossible for me to explain how extraordinary life in the Army was. Not only are you serving your country, but you’re travelling the world with an amazing bunch of people. You’re also learning about new cultures, as well as what your country’s role in the world is.
Before I joined, I remember feeling quite nervous and almost apprehensive as to whether I had made the right decision. But as cliché as this sounds, it truly was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Afghanistan was by far the biggest challenge that I faced during my time in the Army. When I was told that I was being deployed there, I found it quite hard to get my head around. I remember feeling as though I had been given a one-way ticket.
Ultimately, you just don’t know what to expect – the nation’s people were disenchanted, so one of the main parts of my job whilst I was out there was to help win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people whilst out on patrol. However, there was always a feeling of anxiousness; a feeling that saying or doing the wrong thing could have a major impact on the peace efforts, which was a lot of pressure.
Aside from Afghanistan, leaving my family for deployment was always hard, particularly when I went abroad and couldn’t see them regularly. You’re not sure when you’ll see them again, and when you’re in a conflict zone like Afghanistan, there’s a part of you that worries you might not ever see them again.
Did you see any major changes over the course of your career in terms of what it’s like to be a woman in the Armed Forces?
I suppose my experiences are a little different from most, as engineering isn’t a particularly representative industry on the whole. There were only a handful of women in my regiment, although I’m sure that this is probably similar to large engineering firms in the UK. There are a lot of women working within the Army now though.
Some women’s experience will be different to mine, but gender was never really an issue for me. I never felt that I was treated any differently being female, but it’s great that women are now able to join the Army in roles that have always been traditionally seen as ‘male’, such as fighting on the front line.