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Three weeks from Kenya to Coronation to NATO training

Life has been a whirlwind of contrasting highlights for Lieutenant Sophie Hare recently.

The 25-year-old went straight from mentoring troops on Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya, then leading her regiment’s parade contingent at the King’s Coronation, to immediately deploying on Europe’s largest NATO training exercise of the year in Estonia in a matter of a few weeks.

There, Sophie’s regiment The Light Dragoons, took on the role of enemy force, testing integration between NATO troops and the Estonian Defence Forces during the month-long Exercise Spring Storm.

It saw 14,000 land, sea and air personnel from 11 NATO countries demonstrating interoperability in multi-domain training scenarios.

A Troop Leader in A Squadron, Sophie, from Docking, Norfolk, said: “My father and both my grandfathers served, so I always thought about joining when I was growing up and started applying while at university.

“I decided I needed an active career, not just sitting behind a desk, so I went for it and I’m glad I did."

Since passing out of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in August 2021, she has enjoyed the variety of Army life and the ability to go anywhere at a moment’s notice, becoming a more rounded person in the process.

It’s developed me hugely. Lieutenant Sophie Hare

Sophie said: “It’s developed me hugely. The Army, especially, is an environment where development is critical to you getting the most out of yourself and, also, out of your soldiers.

“We get to work with a real variety of characters and, on exercises like this, working with other nations, you learn what makes people tick and how to bring a solution to something that might not always be easy.”

Playing a role in the King’s Coronation, known as Operation Golden Orb in military circles, is something she is immensely proud of and will always cherish the memories of.

She was one of three officers leading the contingent of 24 personnel from the Light Dragoons, alongside her Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Jon Harris and Second-in-Command Major Luke Dodington, a Guidon Party and her troopers.

Golden Orb was epic. Lieutenant Sophie Hare

“Golden Orb was epic,” she said. “Very different to a military exercise. A real change of pace. We went from Kenya to Golden Orb to Estonia. It was very different walking around in polished shoes and various bits of kit.

“It was a great day. Amazing! When we were all there in our Number One dress, our Blues, it was a very proud moment for us and the regiment.”

The former pupil of Gresham School, in Holt, says she was only really struck by what a significant piece of history she had been part of after the event.

“I think I realised, but the gravity of it didn’t sink in on the day itself fortunately, as that would be a lot to handle. In retrospect, it’s really sinking in now. I was really overwhelmed by the interest so many people took in it.”

Following the ceremony, the unit drove back to Catterick that night and deployed to Estonia on the Tuesday morning, leaving just two days to turn around their kit, with a very different packing list.

She had only arrived back in the UK from Kenya a week prior, where the regiment had been part of the Coldstream Guards Battlegroup on Exercise Askari Storm, working in an observer or mentor role which provides feedback, advice and coaching to the troops on exercise in hot, arid conditions in the bush.

The scale we’re operating on is incredible. Lieutenant Sophie Hare

Speaking while on Exercise Spring Storm, she said: “For us it’s a huge opportunity, and a huge opportunity for NATO in general, to show and test exactly what we’re capable of and the scale we’re operating on is incredible.

“For me personally, I’m in my troop leader role which sees me being a commander on a Jackal for my troop and we sit within a much bigger battle space, so it’s about learning how other nations work and then operating together.”

Her decision to join the Army is one she would wholeheartedly encourage others to follow.

The best decision I made was joining the Army. Lieutenant Sophie Hare

“I say to everyone, the best decision I made was joining the Army. It’s given me such amazing opportunities and opened my eyes to a variety of people, experiences, everything that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else.

“I would say to people thinking of joining the British Army, absolutely go for it. There’s an element of just needing to back yourself and do it. It has its challenges but it’s not impossible and it’s a real team environment, so everyone is genuinely there to bring out the best in each other.”

Sophie believes there is a lack of understanding of how many different trades and roles are on offer in the Army.

She said: “When I was first looking, I didn’t even know what a troop leader was. I think when you think of the Army, you think of infantry troop commanding, which is epic in its own right, but I went for light cavalry because we get to dismount and do all the cool stuff but also get to do the mounted, slightly more complex situations that comes from operating on a platform like Jackal.”

The Light Dragoons is a light cavalry regiment in the Adaptive Force that carries out many roles, from scouting for information to engaging enemy targets and using the Jackal 2 fighting vehicles and other tactical, lightweight equipment to deploy anywhere in the world.

The British Army is recruiting right now to fill 10,000 jobs across the UK with more than 200 roles to choose from, covering everything from frontline combat and cyber security to helicopter pilots, chefs and support roles. If you’re aged 16 to 50 and if you want to find out more about a career in the Army, click here.

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