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Mum-of-two blazing a trail for equality of opportunity in forces

By Rebecca Black

She is a working mother-of-two who has saved lives in war zones across the world.

While Portrush woman Kerry McFadden-Newman adores her job as an Army nursing officer, she has had to say many tearful goodbyes to her young children.

Major McFadden-Newman is one of a growing number of young mothers in the Army who are paving the way for equality of opportunity in the forces.

She is currently a nursing officer with 204 Field Hospital based in Hydebank.

It may be a trek from her native north Antrim, but nothing compared to the long distances she has lived away from home in the past.

Since joining up in 2000 she has served in Kosovo, Iraq, Germany, Kenya and Jordan.

She even met her husband through the Army, and the couple started a family.

"We made the decision when I had my daughter, our first born, that one of us had to leave because it really becomes difficult as a family when two are serving, so he left and followed me," she said.

"I have had a fantastic career but there are times, particularly now, my children are aged nine and six, that it can be a struggle to be away from home for lengthy periods of time.

"We have just moved home to Northern Ireland, my first posting at home, which is fantastic, kind of on the doorstep, just an hour down the road."

However, her path to her dream career was not smooth and she was initially not successful in enlisting.

"I tried to join the Army in the mid-1990s as a student nurse but at that stage they had stopped student nurse training," she said.

"The recruitment team in Belfast said to come back as a qualified nurse, which is what I did. My heart was always in the military.

"I have a military background, I looked at RAF and Navy, but the Army had the most appeal. I wanted to provide humanitarian care, look after our soldiers and to travel."

Kerry completed her nursing training in Bath before entering the Army as a Corporal. She rose through the ranks and became a Major in 2011. Last year she was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross Medal for outstanding military nursing.

She described her career as "absolutely having been worth it".

"Without the Army I would never have met my husband, had two beautiful kids, or have travelled the world," she said.

Kerry said she expected she would leave the Army in a few years' time, and said she would continue to nurse after that.

"The disappointing thing is that I want to settle in Northern Ireland but what I would like to see is more opportunities for nurse practitioners in primary health care," she said.

"At the minute we have very few, and for me to stay in somewhere like Portrush, with no opportunities nearby.

"I will continue to nurse, I love nursing, I love patients, but unfortunately it may not be as a nurse practitioner."

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