Belfast Telegraph

Infantry commander excited to see women serving on front line

2 Rifles Commanding Officer Sam Cates said he would welcome his daughters serving.

2 Rifles Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Sam Cates briefs the battlegroup during Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya. (Rebecca Black/PA)
2 Rifles Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Sam Cates briefs the battlegroup during Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya. (Rebecca Black/PA)

The commander of a battalion in the largest infantry regiment in the British Army said he would welcome his daughters serving on the front line.

Last October, the Army announced it was changing its long-held rule that only men could serve in frontline combat roles.

Commanding Officer of Co Antrim-based 2 Rifles Sam Cates likened the change to the Army finally allowing openly gay men and women to serve in 2000.

Speaking to the Press Association while leading his battalion on Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya, Lieutenant Colonel Cates said he was aware of at least one female officer that he expects to join The Rifles in the next year.

Lt Col Cates said he is excited to see women on the front line, and when asked how he would react to any of his three daughters serving, he said he would be absolutely thrilled.

“In my first 10 months in the Army, the statement was issued saying it was OK to be gay in the army. Nothing changed, some came out, some didn’t,” he said.

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The bar has been lifted on women in the British Army serving on the front line. (Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright)

“Exactly the same will happen (with women in infantry regiments).

“So far we have only selected 50% of the population, so why wouldn’t you open yourself up to 100%.

“I am really up for it, really excited. I hope it will be during my command tour.”

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A Rifleman from 2 Rifles listens to a briefing while on exercise Askari Storm in Kenya. (Rebecca Black/PA)

Lt Col Cates said the decision to allow women to serve on the front line was taken by commanders including those who had seen action with the Parachute Regiment, Special Forces and the Rifles.

“We need to be a 21st century Army. This is the right thing to do,” he said.

“I am the father of three little girls, if they wanted to join the Rifles, I would be absolutely thrilled. I really would.”

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Soldiers from 2 Rifles take part in Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya. (Robbie Hodgson/Crown Forces/PA)

He was speaking to Press Association while leading his battalion on the challenging training exercise Askari Storm in central Kenya designed to test their readiness to deploy to Kabul next year.

2 Rifles, who are based at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, Co Antrim, are spending seven weeks in Kenya close to the Equator, taking part in challenging exercises in extreme conditions, including temperatures up to 40 degrees and basic living conditions.

They spent the first two weeks training in Laikipia Province before moving to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Simba, close to Archers Post from where they spent nights in the African bush under the stars.

2nd Battalion The Rifles are currently in Kenya on Exercise ASKARI STORM. The Battalion spent the first two weeks...

Posted by Armed Forces in Northern Ireland on Sunday, March 24, 2019

It includes long marches carrying kit weighing up between 20-40kg and taking part in simulated attacks.

One of these was a night-long advance supported by the Kenya Defence Forces to find the “enemy” acted by the Queen’s Dragoons Guards defending a remote FOB.

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A soldier from the Queen’s Dragoon Guards plays the enemy in Kenya, defending a forward operating base (fob) from an attack by 2 Rifles. (Robbie Hodgson/Crown Forces/PA)

Lt Col Cates said the exercise was to prepare 2 Rifles for their next deployment to Kabul next year.

He said he has been staggered by how well his men have coped with the challenging conditions.

“Every single time I have been to see them training, I have just been amazed at how professional they are, how much enthusiasm they have for the job and how proud they are making me.”

PA

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