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From Tonbridge to Tokyo: Molly’s story

An Army officer has used her gift for languages to help break down language barriers on a major military exercise in Japan.

Lieutenant Molly Tawney deployed as an interpreter during Exercise Vigilant Isles in Japan in November 2023.

Over 170 soldiers from B Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland took part in the training exercise, along with around 400 troops from the Japanese 1st Airborne Brigade’s 3rd Infantry Battalion.

Molly played a key role during the exercise, interpreting for Japanese soldiers and officers as they trained alongside their British counterparts, including live firing exercises.

She also translated into English a speech delivered by the Japanese forces’ commanding officer at the closing ceremony.

Molly, aged 26, grew up in Tonbridge and attended the town’s Weald of Kent Grammar School.

She then studied Japanese as an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh, obtaining a first class honours degree with distinction in spoken Japanese. She graduated in 2019 after a year abroad in Japan.  

After leaving university, Molly worked for a short spell in a data entry role but decided a civilian job was not for her. She says the Army was a natural career choice because:

“I wanted to go on adventures and enjoy sporting activities as part of my job.

“I also wanted to work with languages and people from other cultures. And I wanted to work in a dynamic environment not knowing what will happen next week.”

Molly successfully applied to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) where, over 44 weeks, she learned the fundamentals of being an Army officer, including leadership skills and decision making.

My friends who work in the City in London earn twice as much as me. But I’ll never want to work in a 9-5 job when every day’s the same. You just can’t get the experiences and opportunities I’ve enjoyed in the Army anywhere else. Lieutenant Molly Tawney

During her time at Sandhurst, Molly attended adventure training exercises in the UK and Germany and selected her future corps or regiment.

Molly opted to join the Army’s Educational and Training Services (ETS) Branch, part of the Adjutant General’s Corps.

ETS Branch is an all-officer, all-graduate unit, responsible for educational and training support to all Army personnel.

Molly commissioned as an officer from RMAS in 2021, and joined 3 Army Education Centre (3AEC), based at Imphal Barracks, York.

Molly’s current post at 3AEC is Learning Development Officer and language lead for units in the Northwest of England.

Her day-to-day role sees Molly teaching the Army Leadership Development Programme (ALDP) to the most senior soldier ranks in the Army, from Sergeants through to Warrant Officer Class 2, and delivering education packages to different units across the Army.

Molly says,

“It’s a full-on programme and the soldiers I teach have strong opinions.

“We use their experiences of leadership and management as discussion topics, then look at how to improve our leadership using academic theory.

“The job is very rewarding, helping the soldiers get the best out of their time in the classroom.”

Molly says the highlight of her Army career so far was the deployment to Japan.

She was recruited for the interpreter role on Exercise Vigilant Isles after passing an exam run by the MOD Language Assessment Board (MODLAB) which assesses the proficiency of military personnel in the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Personnel that pass the MODLAB exam, used to assess competency levels in approximately 40 languages, receive a bonus depending on their exam score (Molly received £1,200), and are added to the Army’s register of linguists, ready to deploy on operations and exercises all over the world.

After a demanding two weeks of interpreting for Japanese soldiers on the ground and translating military documents into English, Molly, like all UK military personnel on the exercise, was able to enjoy a few days’ downtime in Tokyo before returning home.

Later this year, Molly will move away from her educational training role to become a troop commander at the Army’s foundation college for junior soldiers at Harrogate.

As well as Japan, Molly has visited several countries with the Army, including Saudi Arabia, where she taught English to Saudi military officers, Poland for a battlefield study, Tenerife as part of an Army rowing team, and Germany for a training exercise.

Molly says:

“My friends who work in the City in London earn twice as much as me. But I’ll never want to work in a 9-5 job when every day’s the same. You just can’t get the experiences and opportunities I’ve enjoyed in the Army anywhere else.”

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 want to find out more about a career in the Army, click here: British Army 


Find Where You Belong

The British Army is recruiting now for over 200 roles, from frontline combat and cyber security to helicopter pilots, chefs and vital support roles.

If you are aged 16 to 50, then learn more about an Army career here today.