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Mum, metalsmith, soldier

“I was told a woman couldn’t do it. This only made me more determined to try.”​

Sergeant Pammie McNeill always wanted to be a soldier since dressing up in her granddad’s uniform as a child.

She went on to become, she believes, the third female metalsmith in the regular British Army and one of only two currently serving. She is also a tank driver and commander.

Twenty years on she still adores what she does and says she couldn’t have had a better career.

The 37-year-old from Barrhead, near Paisley in Scotland, said: “My ‘Papa’ was in the TA and absolutely loved it. I wanted to make him proud.

“I joined the Army Cadets as soon as I could, encouraged by him. It was a bit rare back then for a female to join but it was an amazing experience and I still have best friends from my days in the cadets.”

The reason she decided on the metalsmith trade was because she was told it wasn’t something females could do. She set about proving that ridiculous assertion absolutely wrong and hasn’t looked back.

Pammie, who serves with 2 Close Support Battalion of the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, said: “A lot of things in the forces are made of metal. We manufacture and repair items that we can’t get through the system and repair various vehicles. Every day is different . 

What I absolutely love about my trade is that we can make anything, we are only limited by our imagination as the Army has taught us the skills. In my spare time I use my skills to make sculptures from scrap metal and bits I buy to raise money for charities.” Sergeant Pammie McNeill

She has also turned her hand to creating a sculpture for memorial gardens in her home town, due to be unveiled later this year.

“The Army is massive for helping people and communities and really encourages you to get involved with charities outside of work,” she said. 

Pammie had assumed choosing a career in the Army would mean that she couldn’t also be a mother. But as a single mum-of-two, with a six-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son who wants to become a soldier too, she has proved to herself that you can be a success at both.

“My children are my biggest achievement,” she says. “I know a lot of women think they have to choose one or the other, but it is absolutely possible to be a good soldier and a good mum.

Some of her career highlights include skydiving in Canada, snowboarding in Germany and sea kayaking in Cyprus, while she has also served in Iraq, Falklands and on various exercises in the UK and overseas. She has also gained mini bus and fork lift licences.

She says attitudes to women have changed since she was told to consider a different path.

There were some barriers when I joined but there are no dramas nowadays, the men come through training alongside women and see them as equal. We do the same job, get the same pay. Sergeant Pammie McNeill

“The Army is like a second family. We know each other’s families. When we deploy, we have each other’s backs.” 

Pammie has certainly made the most of her potential. She has received a number of awards and was nominated for Most Inspirational Female at the Women In Defence Awards in 2017 and won the Defence category at the 2020 We Are The City Rising Stars awards.

She has just three years left in the Army and hasn’t yet considered how she will replace the career she loves.

“It’s been incredible. Nothing will match what I’m doing now,” she said.