Protecting our nation’s interest is the calling our servicemen and women answer on a daily basis.
The UK Armed Forces manage 35 operations in 30 countries around the globe with approximately 11,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women deployed at any time.
This International Women’s Day we take a look at the women who are making a big impact on deployment across the world.
Cpl Sophie Fitzhugh wanted to join the army at a young age. The 30-year-old joined the Reserves in 2007, which was the catalyst for a career in the regular Army.
She started her regular service in 2011 with The Royal Artillery (RA) as an AS90 driver and gunner. After serving for five years she took on a new challenge in March 2018, transferring to Staff and Personnel Support (SPS).
Sophie is from Milton Keynes but has been deployed on exercises to Belize, Canada, Kazakhstan, Kenya and served on Operation MANISO (Cameroon) and Operation TANGHAM (Somalia).
Speaking of her deployment in Somalia, she said: “This deployment is important to me professionally as it gives me the opportunity to put into practice all the skills I have learnt throughout the Specialised Infantry Training pipeline and MRX in Kenya.
“Personally, I feel humbled and grateful to support the Somalian National Army (SNA) in their battle to defeat al Shabab. Working with the SNA is a great experience to learn more about local culture and the people of Baidoa.”
Recalling a fond moment of her time in Somalia, she said: “I was on the ranges zeroing my individual weapon and pistol concurrently to the SNA training. Once I had finished firing, the Somali soldiers came over to see how our groupings were. As the only female firing, they all congregated around my target.
“They were impressed and congratulated me for my weapon handling drills and accuracy on the range.
“I felt it very important to illustrate to the SNA soldiers, especially the female soldiers that women can operate just as proficiently alongside our male counterparts. Hopefully this small example will serve to motivate and inspire female SNA soldiers throughout their training with the British Army.”
South Sudan is ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world – which is why UK Engineers are helping to build the infrastructure, in a bid to make the country a safer and better place.
One of those people making an impact is Sapper Jade Murray who is currently deployed on Op TRENTON, based in Bentiu, South Sudan.
Back in the UK, she works as a self-employed painter and decorator. In Sudan, however, she is helping build huge infrastructure projects.
“From 10km of route upgrades, which allows the UN personnel to transit better, to three accommodation blocks and a drainage system,” she said.
“The route upgrades are vital in this area, not only for the UN personnel but for the local Sudanese women. These upgrades mean that women no longer have to walk through the bush, where they are likely to be attacked.”
Jade continued: “Conflict-Related Violence in South Sudan is a big problem, this is why we have been doing the work we have doing. I also have been involved in some of the self-defence classes myself. We have been teaching them basic punching drills, elbows and some grappling – how to get away from people choking you.”
Aside from the actual job though, Jade is keen to point out that building up good relationships locally are an important part of what the army does in other countries.
“On the ground, we want to engage with the locals,” she said. “The kids absolutely love the soldiers they run up to us.
“We are here to interact with people.We are not here for war, we are here to help.”