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Women speak of ‘excitement’ at frontline opportunities

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced all roles in the military were now open to women.

Private Beth Johnson during a Land Combat demonstration on Salisbury Plain (Ben Birchall/PA)
Private Beth Johnson during a Land Combat demonstration on Salisbury Plain (Ben Birchall/PA)

Dog handler Private Beth Johnson said that being a woman made no difference to her job.

The 19-year-old, from Bridgwater, Somerset, joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps 18 months ago.

“We are treated equally. I wouldn’t say that men are tougher than women or women are tougher than men,” she said.

“I would say it all depends on the individual person, it doesn’t matter about the gender.”

Private Beth Johnson during the Land Combat demonstration on Salisbury Plain (Ben Birchall/PA)

Pte Johnson was taking part in exercises on Salisbury Plain with a five-year-old German Shepherd dog called Scillag in which they detained a suspect after entering a building.

“I joined straight from college at 17 as it was something I always wanted to do and work with dogs. So why not do something that is challenging and will make a difference,” she said.

“We do obedience, we do agility and because I am a protection dog handler we do bite work.

Private Beth Johnson was taking part in exercises with five-year-old German Shepherd dog Scillag (Ben Birchall/PA)

“As a protection dog handler I am here to detain, deter and detect. I can use the dog as crowd control or a visual deterrent.

“My dog can chase and detain an intruder and can also detect someone from 300 metres away.”

Pte Johnson added: “The best thing about what I do is working with my dog. I love being a protection dog handler.”

Meanwhile Corporal Vicky Helsby is looking forward to training to be a nurse after serving on the frontline as a combat medical technician with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Corporal Vicky Helsby served as a combat medical technician (Ben Birchall/PA)

The 29-year-old, from Runcorn, Cheshire, joined the Army eight-and-a-half-years ago and has served on operations in Afghanistan.

“I am treated just like one of the guys to be honest with you,” she said.

“I am set to be a nurse but even if I didn’t transfer I would be happy to be a medic because I get the best out of both worlds.”

Lance Corporal Anna Stanley, a close protection officer with the Royal Military Police, is part of a team looking after diplomats, generals and VIPs.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses and people bring different things to the team, whether you are male or female Lance Corporal Anna Stanley

“The close protection unit is like a family and once you passed that course you are part of that close protection family,” the 24-year-old, from Chepstow, South Wales, said.

“I am part of the team and the guys think that as well and they don’t see me any differently.”

To join the unit, L/Cpl Stanley had to pass an eight-week course, which she described as “physically and mentally demanding”.

“We all have our strengths and weaknesses and people bring different things to the team, whether you are male or female,” she said.

“I enjoy it and each day is challenging and something different.”

She joined the Army four years ago and has served in Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Maddie Hudson has recently joined the 26 Engineer Regiment after graduating from Sandhurst but does not plan to switch to an infantry role.

She is in charge of 30 soldiers and said there was “no difference” between commanding men or women.

“You spend a whole year at Sandhurst training and what you have to look forward to is a cap badge and you look at that and think that is my family,” she said.

“I absolutely fell in love with the Engineers and wanted to do that.

“I think it is really exciting that they are opening up these opportunities to women but I have found my home.

“What’s exciting is that future women are going to find theirs and that’s really important.”

Lt Hudson added: “To get into the infantry there is a whole load of tests and they are very vigorous and difficult to pass.

“If a woman can pass them then I feel there is no difference between a man and woman.”



From Belfast Telegraph