Photo: Lieutenant Colonel Gillian Wilkinson
Contact: Major Fiona Battey
Company: Army Reserves
Women in the Army Reserve in Scotland
Flexibility, confidence and stability; some of the advantages of being an Army Reservist.
In Scotland, as throughout the UK, women take equal and very active roles within Army Reserve Units. Recruited alongside their male counterparts, trained to the exacting high standards and employed in roles that historically would have been dominated by a man, women have taken a leap forward as leaders and soldiers in the Army Reserve.
On the lookout for exciting opportunities in their spare time, women have become increasingly aware of the endless professional and self-development openings available to them in the Army Reserves such as leadership training, learning specialist transferable skills and, of course, the chance to improve fitness and join exciting adventure training activities both of which the Army and Army Reserve excel.
Needing a challenge after eight years as an Army Regular Officer and 13 years as a Reservist, Lieutenant Colonel Gillian Wilkinson, 44, took on the role as Commanding Officer (CO) of 154 (Scottish) Regiment based in Dunfermline.
The first ever full time Reservist to be given this prestigious Command of the only regiment of the Royal Logistics Corps based in Scotland, who’s role is to provide general transport support for the British Army, Gillian, a Leadership Development Consultant, first trained as a teacher after leaving the Army, in an attempt to give her flexibility to ‘up sticks’ whenever her serving Army Officer husband was posted.
Scottish Borders-based mother of two jokes: “I left the regulars when I had my first baby; I joined the Reserves to get away from the second.” And continues: “I joined the Army Reserve as it gave me the stability I needed; I did not want to send my children to boarding school.”
Working throughout the UK, yet still living in Melrose, Gillian has been able to run her Army career parallel with her Regular counterparts and feels she has the best of both worlds. “As a result of the Army’s new flexible ‘Through life career management’ policy I have been able to take control of my Reserve career and work it in harmony with my civilian business and family commitments; in return I can now offer a 360 degree understanding of the requirements of my job as well as a thorough in depth knowledge of the challenges facing a reservist who is trying to balance work, family and the Army in their life.”
Not wanting to be pigeon-holed, Gillian, a keen sportswoman who has recently spent two weeks with her team in America on their annual training commitment, will return to her civilian job at the end of this tour in 18 months’ time. She will remain as a reservist but commit to fewer days in order to be able to replace her husband who, now a Reservist himself, is looking after their home and two teenage children; Gillian will be replaced as CO by… her husband.
Another female, Corporal Angie Garton, 36, based at 51 Squadron, 32 Signals Regiment in Edinburgh, joined the Army Reserves 6 years ago in England. With a Master’s degree in Wildlife Science and working with an animal rehabilitation unit Angie admits she was getting bored. “I was looking for something fulfilling, something extra that I was not getting in normal life” Angie explained. “Although I had joined lots of clubs and was developing good people skills there was always something niggling at me, I knew I was capable of doing more.”
As a result of joining the Army Reserves, Angie’s confidence grew to the extent that she gave up her job, enhanced her personal training qualifications, moved to Scotland and started her own business as a self employed physical fitness instructor. “The pay I got as a Reservist gave me the comfort blanket I needed to reach out in to a very competitive environment” admitted Angie.
While on tour in Afghanistan, with her limited free time, Angie was able to develop nutrition plans and was asked to take spinning classes for a cross section of military personnel. It was at this stage that she knew that she wanted to help women to feel better about themselves. “I wanted to support women to feel more in control of their bodies and so I started my second business, The Body Evolution. which enabled me to work at my own pace as well as get the most out of the Army Reserves.”
Angie, a Communication Systems Operator, whose highlight of being in the Army Reserves was her recent two week trip to South Africa, works two days a week for 32 Signals Regiment as well as a weekend a month and her annual camp. “The demands of being a Reservist are based on what you can reasonably achieve without too much pressure on your outside world – it is challenging, adventurous and flexible.”
With hobbies of running and workouts in the gym that dovetail perfectly in to the Army ethos, Angie also stresses the social aspects of being part of a well-oiled, highly trained institution: “Working by myself can get a little lonely; the Reserves gives you that camaraderie that is so important to me – they are a pre-made family – it is the people that make it for me”.
Interested in joining the Army Reserve?
Contact Major Fiona Battey at 51X-Rec-Engt-Media@mod.uk