Women are an integral part of today’s armed forces. From Afghanistan to America, on operations or in training, women fulfil a vital role in defending the UK.
The Army instructor inspiring her Afghan counterparts.
Captain Kendal Moran, 29, was the female platoon commander at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul, mentoring some of the first Afghan women training to become officers.
This job was the highlight of my career. Being awarded a medal for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Afghanistan’ on behalf of the UK at the Presidential Palace is something I will always remember but the day that will stay with me is from a training exercise.
I was assisting a female staff member of the academy to teach both men and women together in a joint lesson, something that had never been done before. It went very well, proving to any who had doubted that women can add value at every level.
The biggest challenge of the job was resetting the expectations of the Afghan women themselves, encouraging them to realise that they could successfully complete their training alongside their male peers.
Being a woman in today’s army, in my experience, is no different from being a man. My gender has not stopped me doing anything I want to do.
I enjoyed working as a mentor and am proud of contributing to the mission in Afghanistan - hopefully it will encourage a movement towards the same gender equality in the Afghan National Army.
The Royal Navy Air engineer at the cutting edge of new technology.
Lieutenant Commander Beth Kitchen, 39, is the UK’s senior engineering officer running a small team of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force technicians based at Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, in the USA.
Her days are spent overseeing the safety of the UK’s first operational Lightning II aircraft in the joint US/UK training programme.
It’s a real privilege to have this job; Lightning II is the most sophisticated fighter aircraft in the world and as an engineer it is my job to understand and help maintain its complex flight and mission systems.
Most of my roles have been office based, but my proudest moment was serving with 820 Naval Air Squadron during operations in Iraq.
I was on the support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Austin, maintaining the Sea King helicopters flying casualty evacuation, search and rescue and supply tasks.
I’ve also worked on the Merlin and Harrier aircraft but this job is different; helping to see a new aircraft into service is exciting but challenging. Everyone involved out here is learning how the technology performs, and my knowledge of the aircraft is expanding daily.
The first female officer to command a Royal Air Force fast jet squadron.
Wing Commander Nikki Thomas, 36, has just been appointed officer commanding 12 (Bomber) Squadron based at RAF Marham, Norfolk. She remembers the first days in her career.
I wanted a job that gave me the chance to work in a dynamic, challenging environment. Deploying to Iraq over christmas for the first time when I was 23 as a junior navigator was an amazing experience.
Since then, I have completed numerous detachments to both Iraq and Afghanistan and I am proud that the RAF has continually provided support to the coalition forces on the ground.
From using the Litening III Advanced Targeting Pod (our ‘eye in the sky’) to direct a patrol through a safe route on the ground in Afghanistan to destroying rockets that were aimed at the UK base in Iraq – every time I helped in some way made me proud of the job I did.
When we are not on operations we train. The Tornado has a wide range of roles which all need practice: from close air support to land and maritime forces to using the reconnaissance sensors as well as long-range, high-speed precision day and night strikes at both medium and low level.
We have to make sure we are able to deploy in a number of diverse and challenging roles so training is essential.
I have been given the opportunity to lead an amazing, hardworking team both in the UK and on operations while also getting to fly. In my mind it does not get much better than that!
If you are willing to work hard, take all the opportunities provided and enjoy what you do then you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.