SSI Debbie Callaghan, County PRO Greater Manchester ACF
Over the coming weeks we are happy that we have some amazing speakers who have offered their time to speak to cadets on a county zoom meeting.
Our first inspirational speaker and leader on the 9 February is Capt Voirrey Walsh. Capt Walsh is a retired Major from the Regular Army and is currently the Medical Support Officer with the Royal Army Medical Corps unit (Reserves).
Capt Voirrey has kindly sent a list of her achievements (see below) from when she first joined the Army Cadets in the Isle of Man until the present day. Her experience, knowledge and skills she now has are amazing. I hope many of you will attend the meeting as she would really love to speak about her experience and answer any questions you may want to ask her.
The meeting is open to all cadets in HQ North West Region who may want to come along to meet and speak to Capt Voirrey. The counties are Cheshire ACF, Cumbria ACF, Isle of Man ACF, Lancs ACF and Merseyside ACF. The joining link will be sent to your County PRO's.
This will be a great night. Please save the date in your diary and we will see you on the night!
1992 – Aug 95
Joined Isle of Man ACF. Had an absolute blast! The highlights were shooting at Bisley and Cadet SAAMs in the NW over the years and being selected to attend a pan ACF expedition to the Himalayas in 1995.
I headed off to Pakistan on the Himalayan expedition. Great experience had my 16th birthday somewhere in the Hindu Kush and found out my GCSE results on a very shaky telephone connection which I had to wait an hour for! Climbed 17500 ft up Tirich Mir and reached the base camp. I had my first taste of goat and experienced an upset stomach for the majority or the expedition…
Welbeck College. I had completed RCB earlier in the year and was selected to attended Welbeck College (old site) to complete my A Levels and commence my Army career. At that time, it was a feeder for the technical corps.
181 AYT. Became attached to 181 Army Youth Team prior to attending RMAS. We ran ‘Look at Life’ courses and did a lot of recruiting.
RMAS. I struggled with the course, in the main due to injury and immaturity, so found myself loaded onto Rowallan company; the first ever to take females. It was extremely hard work and was not particularly nice, but it was an experience! Unfortunately, injury saw me leave just prior to the end of the course and head off to the Y list where, after a couple of months of rehab I decided that I would leave and come back when I was older and stronger.
Wales UOTC. I attended the University of Glamorgan to study BSc (Hons) Forensic Science (2:1 achieved) and participated heavily in the University Officer Training Corps; can’t recommend enough! It was a souped up version of the ACF with excellent opportunities both to experience regular army attachments and adventurous training.
RMAS take 2! Fitter, stronger and more mature this time. Just days into the course the world security and defence landscape changed forever with the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon. I enjoyed the course but it was still hard work! I was given the opportunity to take up a commission in either the AGC (RMP) or the Royal Engineers. I decided, after much consideration, that the ‘Sappers’ would offer a greater breadth of role; I was not to be disappointed!
Sep 02 – Mar 03
Royal Engineer Troop Commanders Course. In 2003 the Corps was 10K strong and less than 100 of us were female. We were given every opportunity our male colleagues were to show we were capable of doing the job. Not once throughout my Regular career did I feel I was treated any less because I was a woman though in the early stages I did feel we had to work harder and have higher standards than our male counterparts. The Troop Commanders Course taught us the basic field engineering concepts that we, as combat support arm personnel, needed to ensure those on the battlefield could move, fight and survive. It was great fun and I really enjoyed the course. Tension heightened towards the end of the course when the UK deployments to Iraq began, many of us were itching to get out into our units and get cracked on.
Mar 03 – Aug 04
39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support). I found myself very quickly receiving specialist training in airfield damage repair and then deploying out to Iraq on Op TELIC. As we arrived into the theatre holding camp in Kuwait we witnessed the US patriot missile system ‘chasing’ a scud across the sky from behind the steamed-up lenses of my respirator as I dashed to the safety of a shelter! We moved up country soon after and I joined my Squadron, 48 Field Squadron (Air Support). In reality we did very little airfield work and were in the main utilised for the blokes’ trade skills and our project management skills.
On returning to the UK I organised Ex FLYING ROSE, an exchange between the US Air National Guard and ourselves. This was a month long trip for 40 UK RE personnel to the US, half spent working with the US ANG and the other adventurous training. We walked sections of the Appalachian Mountain trail, white water rafter, climbed and had some down time in Washington DC prior to heading home to start to prepare for our next tour to Northern Ireland; Op DESCANT.
The pre-deployment training for the tour was far more enjoyable than the tour itself. Public order training saw me set on fire with a petrol bomb to demonstrate to my soldiers how the protective kit and drills would work in a public order situation. Further training on vehicles, weapon systems, local knowledge and general conduct was done and we deployed in March 2004 as the roulemont squadron.
Aug 04 - Feb 07
32 Engineer Regiment. My first and only assignment to Germany. 32 Engineer Regiment was an armour based regiment situated in Hohne, northern Germany. I felt I really found my feet here and felt very at home in my Spartan CVRT (small armoured vehicle). We were deep in the training cycle and lots of training was undertaken all over Germany including in the depths of winter and culminating in Ex MEDMAN held in BATUS, Canada. 31 Armd Engr Sqn supported the Scots DG Battle Group and it was in BATUS that we really got to flex our muscles. As a woman, to be as far forward on the ‘battlefield’ as this required us to be pushed the envelope at this time. We would often be at the spearhead of our BG laying bridges, breeching minefields or berms so that the main battle tanks could push on through for the fight (obviously exercise play only!) but it was a massive adrenaline rush. We did all the normal sapper stuff too, laying minefields, proving and providing route enhancement and water. All this preparation was for our next deployment to Iraq on Op TELIC 7. I also found out that my time as a Close Support Troop Commander was coming to and end and I would be taking over the role of Battle Group Engineer (BGE) whilst deployed.
I was to be the first female BGE that the Scots DG had had. I moved lock stock up to Maysaan province via Hercules and was escorted from Sparrowhawk airfield by CR2. Camp Abu Naji was far more austere than my corrimec in Shaiba (aka Shaibiza!) and we regularly came under rocket and mortar attack during the night. My role was to provide Engr support to BG HQ throughout the tour. I found it extremely fulfilling and could not have wanted more from the tour. There were some hairy moments though. We suffered the worst IDF bombardment to date on valentines day when the British media had shown edited footage of local Iraqi citizens being assaulted outside the pink palace in Basra. We also lost the fantastic Capt Richard Holmes PARA and his driver Lee Ellis in an IED attack; a sobering moment for all involved that day.
Mar 07 – Dec 08
26 Engineer Regiment. I moved to Tidworth to take up post as the 2IC of an armoured squadron, it was my dream job! Just far enough back from the coal face to not be involved in the day to day grind of troop life but still close enough to forge a great relationship with the troops and have a tangible effect on careers and wellbeing.
Jan 09 – Dec 10
Recruiting Group. Took up post as SO3 National Marketing, directed assignment rather than personal choice but ended up having a great time. Worked with civilian marketing firms and publishers to produce Camouflage magazine and source people, kit and equipment for national advertising campaigns. We always used soldiers for our campaigns at that time rather than actors. Off the back of this assignment I found out that I had been selected for Major.
Jan 11 – Feb 12
HQ ARRC. Assigned as Adjutant of the Engineer and Civil Support Branch and promptly deployed out to Afghanistan in support of the NATO 4* HQ. My role was to ensure critical infrastructure, such as highways and bridges were ‘registered’ and damage, which may restrict force manoeuvre, be rectified within budget and capability. Working with multinational forces was quite challenging as all had different rules for deployment.
Feb 12 – Jan 13
Jan – Aug 13
Intermediate Command and Staff College (Land). Pre-requisite for taking up an SO2 assignment. It was challenging coming straight back from maternity leave onto this course. As the primary carer for a young child and my husband serving at a completely different location during the week it was hard work but fully achievable.
Aug 13 – Sep 17
SO2 G1. Directed assignment but one which turned out to be extremely enjoyable. Working in a single service 1* HQ was absolutely fantastic. The G1 function was extremely varied and included manpower planning for each of the training establishments overseen (6 geographically spread units including The Royal Military School of Music; The Defence Animal Training Regiment, 1 & 3 RSME Regt, DEMS Training Regiment), discipline, MS, honours and awards submissions, unit health committee and sickness management responsibilities plus many other elements.. This assignment incorporated another bout of maternity leave and preparation for retirement.
Sep 17 – to date
Med Sp Offr MOSG now MOSU (Nationally recruited RAMC unit). Transferred from the RE to the RAMC and took up post as a MSO whilst studying midwifery at university. I have been very much a passenger in the unit whilst studying. I have worked hard to improve my sparse knowledge of the RAMC and I am looking forward to undertaking some ‘trade’ specific courses over the next 18 months to further that underpinning knowledge so that I can add value.
I have managed to achieve a first class honours degree and am currently working with Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust as a Band 5 Midwife.