The first female Army Reservist to qualify as a Challenger 2 tank gunner is looking forward to her ‘live firing’ debut on the Lulworth ranges next week.
Lance-Corporal Kat Dixon, 28, has been in the Army Reserve for nearly three years, having joined Swindon-based Y Squadron of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry as a medic.
Nine months later the Ministry of Defence relaxed its ban on women serving in ground close combat roles and Kat was approached by her Sergeant Major, asking if she wanted to train as tank crew.
She recalled: “I went away and thought about it. Could I physically do this? Is it something I want to do? Well, let’s give it a go!”
The physical tests involved lifting a 40kg pack. Kat is a spin (static indoor cycling) instructor in her spare time and that core fitness, together with some extra training, helped her to pass the test.
The Royal Wessex Yeomanry’s main role is to provide crew for the Army’s Challenger 2 battle tank, one of the most capable and potent land warfighting platforms.
Of the four crew roles – commander, driver, gunner, loader – Kat opted for gunner because it involved less training time. “ I thought I’d be more useful and more quickly as a gunner.”
Five days’ live firing next week – part of a whole fortnight’s exercise for the whole regiment – is a major step forward in developing Kat’s skills as a gunner.
“It’s a big week for me, the first opportunity to live-fire the gun,” she said. “We’ll be using real ammunition down on the ranges at Lulworth.
“As a gunner, you have to be observant. You’re constantly scanning the environment to find targets and potential threats. You then have to aim on to that target and then have the courage to engage it.”
In her day job, Kat is now a senior analyst with Babcock International, working on the submarine supply chain.
“When I applied to join the Reserves, I was in a job I didn’t enjoy. I wasn’t getting any training. I wasn’t very confident. Then I thought: ‘Do something for yourself and get some skills outside of work.’
“Through the Army Reserve and the confidence it’s given me, and the ability to problem-solve and think logically, I’ve had the confidence to go for more challenging jobs. I’ve got the confidence of my own abilities and to act on what I know is right.”
The Army offers a rewarding and diverse range of careers. Women have the same career opportunities as men, able to fulfil their potential in any role they choose, with no difference in pay, promotion or job opportunities.
The Royal Wessex Yeomanry has five squadrons across the South West, from Exeter to Swindon, Cirencester to Bovington and Salisbury as well. For more information, go to the regiment’s page on Facebook.