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From coffee shop to Army aircraft

A former coffee shop manager is following her dream of being an Army Air Corps pilot.

Airtrooper Katie Hall recently deployed to Estonia with 1 Regiment Army Air Corp (1 Regt AAC) on Europe’s largest military exercise of 2023.

The multinational Exercise Spring Storm saw 14,000 land, sea and air personnel from 11 NATO countries testing their fighting and collaborative capabilities.

It’s all a far cry from her previous job at a coffee chain. The 25-year-old, from Ivybridge in Devon, said: “Before I joined the Army, I was a store manager at Starbucks for two years, and before that I was an outdoor activities instructor.

“I was always interested in the outdoors and sports and did sports therapy at uni. With the Army you have that active element with the added ability to deploy overseas.”

As an aviation groundcrew specialist with Yeovil-based 1 Regt AAC, Katie’s day-to-day role includes preparing aircraft to take off and land by marshalling. She also rearms aircraft by fitting ammunition such as the Wildcat which has M3M rapid fire machine gun or GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) capabilities.

We would be underneath the aircraft which would be on a low hover, Airtrooper Katie Hall

Katie said: “We do underslung loads as well if the aircraft wants to drop loads to a specific spot. That could be ammunition, rations, or whatever is specific to that mission. We would be underneath the aircraft which would be on a low hover, and you connect up to a primary hook underneath.

“Other things we do include forward exercise refuelling points. Aircraft will come in, we refuel them and make sure they can go back out again and are capable of doing what they need to do.”

Katie is hoping to progress her career to become either air crew or a pilot, having put in her application. If she passes the training, she will gain a flying grading.

Within a month I was on my way to Oman, Airtrooper Katie Hall

The former Ivybridge Community College pupil said: “I joined because I wanted to deploy a lot and within a month I was on my way to Oman between August and October last year.

“We were there to help the pilots meet their training requirements. Every few years they need to get a tick in the box for desert training, which is a specific environment with a lot of dust kicking up.”

Katie, who’s cousin served in the Royal Navy, her partner in the Royal Air Force and her great grandad in the Army, enjoys the outdoors and sporting opportunities being a soldier offers.

I’ve made a lot of good friends along the way, Airtrooper Katie Hall

“Last year I played for the Air Corps netball team in the inter-corps championships," she said. "I’ve been able to go on a lot of adventure training such as skiing trips, and I managed to get my qualification in kayaking and canoeing, which we did in Sweden for a week.”

“I’ve learned a lot of bushcraft, which you do on your Phase One training; making fires, putting up tarps (camping shelters), how to survive in the field for a long time. I’ve also learned how the military works and how they are so good at what they do.”

“I’ve made a lot of good friends along the way and the freedom of an Army career is among my favourite things.”

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.