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'I couldn’t go any further in my job, so I joined the Army aged 30'

A lack of opportunity for professional advancement and the Covid pandemic led Em McPherson to join the Army aged 30.

Knowing nothing about cars, but with a passion for fixing things, she became a mechanic with the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).

Having previously worked in an Inverness sawmill making bespoke cabinets, decking and other products, Em, now 32, from Shrewsbury, quickly gained skills training on the job.

Speaking while on Operation Cabrit, the UK operational deployment to Estonia where British troops are leading a multinational battlegroup as part of the enhanced Forward Presence, she said: “Covid hit, and I was in a level in my job where I couldn’t go any further.

Everything I learned; I learned in the Army." Craftsman Em McPherson, 3 Armoured Close Support Battalion REME

“I wanted more, and I like fixing things so that’s why I chose the Army. I knew absolutely nothing about cars. Everything I learned; I learned in the Army. Now I fix and fit heavy armoured vehicles.

“It doesn’t bother me working in a predominantly male environment. I fit in well.”

While her gender isn’t an issue in a male-dominated trade, basic training with those mostly around a decade younger was more of a challenge. Despite this, Em, a Craftsman with Tidworth-based 3 Armoured Close Support Battalion REME, says it has subsequently proved to her advantage.

Age is no barrier..."

“Usually, you join between 18 to 20, but I went in at 30. The training wasn’t hard other than not having people my own age to relate to, but it all changed after I qualified and got into role,” she said.

“Age is no barrier and being that bit older puts me in good stead for most things.”

The former Wakeman School pupil has also found plenty of opportunity to pursue her love of sport, and particularly rugby in the Army.

She said: “I recently played in the Army Rugby Super Series. I’d been at an all-female sports day at Tidworth, playing football with one of the officers who plays on the Army team. She said they needed people for the rugby team and put me forward.

“I’m with the Corps rugby team and get time off work to play.”

Despite a family history of service, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion Em would end up in the military but she’s extremely happy she made the decision.

...I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy it.

She said: “Dad was in the Foreign legion, my brother was Intelligence Corps. It didn’t necessarily influence me to join. It was just something I grew up with and was always in front of me.

“But I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy it. I want to do a full career and get as high as I can rank wise. Other than that, I just want to learn as much as I can on majority of platforms we have.”

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.