THE WOMEN WHO KEEP US SAFE

AMID THE THREAT OF CY­BER AND TER­ROR­IST AT­TACKS, CHAR­LOTTE WIL­LIAMSON SPEAKS TO FOUR WOMEN WHO SAFE­GUARD OUR SE­CU­RITY

Woman & Home - - Contents -

MEET FOUR WOMEN WHO SAFE­GUARD OUR SE­CU­RITY

“If I’m be­ing de­ployed abroad, we tell the chil­dren: ‘Mummy’s off to make the world a bet­ter place’”

LIEU­TENANT COLONEL LUCY GILES, 48, is the first fe­male com­man­der of a col­lege at the royal mil­i­tary academy sand­hurst. she is mar­ried to nick, who is also in the army, and they have two chil­dren: jess, 13, and alex, nine.

My Life in The Army is 24/7. I live on cam­pus so i can’t be slob­bing around in jeans; i’m pretty much in uni­form the whole time. my work­ing day is gen­er­ally 6am to 10pm, and there is usu­ally train­ing and sports on satur­days too.

I don’t come from a mil­i­tary back­ground. I Grew up in som­er­set, where my father was a vet, and went to a com­pre­hen­sive school. I ended up in the of­fi­cer’s train­ing corps dur­ing my time at ex­eter uni­ver­sity – some friends sug­gested i take part in army train­ing one week­end, and i en­joyed how much it chal­lenged me. My par­ents were thrilled when

I told them i wanted to join the army FULL-TIME; I THINK IT WAS ONLY WHEN I HAD MY FIRST DE­PLOY­MENT THAT THE SE­RI­OUS SIDE OF WHAT I WAS DO­ING KICKED IN.

AT 25, I WAS DE­PLOYED TO BOS­NIA WHERE I COMMANDED 72 MEN AND 110 VE­HI­CLES. THE RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY WAS HUGE. DUR­ING THE CHRIST­MAS OF 1994, TWO OF MY TROOPS WERE HELD HOSTAGE. THERE WAS NOTH­ING I COULD DO, BUT I DID TRY TO RE­AS­SURE

THE MEN’S FAM­I­LIES AS MUCH AS I COULD. AN­OTHER TIME IN BOS­NIA THERE WAS A MOR­TAR AT­TACK ON MY TROOPS – I STILL HAVE SOME OF THE SHRAP­NEL. I’VE SINCE BEEN DE­PLOYED TO SIERRA LEONE, EAST TIMOR, NORTH­ERN IRE­LAND, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN.

THERE HAVE BEEN MO­MENTS IN MY CA­REER THAT HAVE LEFT MY MOUTH DRY AND MY HEART RAC­ING. I HAVE BEEN FOR­TU­NATE THAT NO ONE I HAVE WORKED WITH DIRECTLY HAS LOST THEIR LIVES, BUT I HAVE BEEN

TO A LOT OF FU­NER­ALS – ONE IS TOO MANY.

THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE ARMY HAS CHANGED DRA­MAT­I­CALLY FROM WHEN I FIRST STARTED. AS RE­CENTLY AS 1990, PREG­NANT WOMEN WERE AU­TO­MAT­I­CALLY DIS­CHARGED. AT SAND­HURST, BE­TWEEN 10 AND 15 PER CENT ARE NOW WOMEN AND IN THE ARMY OVER­ALL, WOMAN MAKE UP NINE PER CENT. SINCE LAST YEAR, ALL MIL­I­TARY ROLES ARE OPEN TO WOMEN, IN­CLUD­ING FRONT­LINE COM­BAT ROLES – BUT, OF COURSE, YOU HAVE TO MEET THE RIGHT CRI­TE­RIA. A WOMAN’S BI­OL­OGY IS DIF­FER­ENT – I’M ONLY 5FT 4IN, FOR IN­STANCE, AND OUR HIPS AREN’T ALIGNED IN THE SAME WAY AS A MAN’S, SO IT’S HARDER FOR US TO CARRY WEIGHTS. HOW­EVER, THAT CAN BE RECTIFIED WITH CORE STA­BIL­ITY TRAIN­ING.

I’VE OF­TEN QUES­TIONED WHETHER, AS A MOTHER, I SHOULD BE DO­ING THIS JOB. I’M FOR­EVER FEEL­ING GUILTY THAT I’M NOT

a good enough par­ent – that i should be home more – but then that’s no dif­fer­ent to the ma­jor­ity of work­ing moth­ers. we made a fam­ily de­ci­sion for jess and alex to go to board­ing school, and we miss them ter­ri­bly. but they love liv­ing at sand­hurst, and the army is very much a part of their lives.

If i’m be­ing de­ployed abroad, we tell the chil­dren: “mummy’s off to try

and make the world a bet­ter place.” We’re open and hon­est with them

– i think a vac­uum of un­cer­tainty just cre­ates more worry. I don’t travel much now but i went on a six-week tour of afghanistan a few years ago. i ac­tu­ally found it a re­lief that i only had to do one thing well and not feel torn – my chil­dren were very happy, I wasn’t wor­ry­ing, and pro­fes­sion­ally i felt ful­filled.

One of my great­est achieve­ments

– as well as my chil­dren and 19-year mar­riage – is com­ing se­cond to dame kelly holmes in a race! it was the 400 me­ters at an army ath­let­ics event in the mid-90s [when dame kelly was also in the army]. I still keep fit – you need to lead by ex­am­ple, and i can’t ex­pect the cadets to have the dis­ci­pline if i don’t.

If I have a sun­day lie-in, a real treat is lis­ten­ing to The Archers. i also en­joy movie-and-pop­corn nights with the kids.

LT COL LUCY GILES OUT ON MANOEUVRES

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.