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"Proving my doubters wrong made me realise I could do anything"

Considered a trailblazer as the first female medic to serve on the frontline with the RAF Regiment, former Flt Lt Michelle Partington had a successful RAF career. Despite her achievements she insists she was nothing special, "just one of the lads doing the job". In this blog as part of our celebration of Women at War 100 she tells us more.

Michelle Partington

Michelle said: "The media interest around my posting made it more of an issue than it actually was for me. I was just one of the lads, I did exactly the same as them.

"There was one occasion when I was posted with the RAF Regiment into Afghanistan and the departing serviceman had noted the role was not suitable for a female. I thought immediately - I’m proving you wrong, mate!"

Michelle's posting to Afghanistan as the first female medic to serve with the RAF Regiment was the pinnacle of a successful career which had spanned more than 20 years by the time she left the Service. Her first tour of Afghanistan inspired her to take her commission and she returned for two more tours as a fully-qualified paramedic and Flight Lieutenant.

Sadly, it was these tours, where life on the frontline was taking its toll physically and mentally on all service personnel, which began to affect Michelle deeply. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder led to debilitating panic attacks and her eventual medical discharge from the RAF.

But Michelle still cherishes her time with the RAF and is, rightly, proud of what she achieved.

She added: "I was one of the lads and that gave me the realisation that I was capable of anything. I proved the doubters wrong. The lads on the ground did not treat me any differently.

"If you are capable of doing the job it should not matter what gender you are so I completely support the move to open up all roles in the RAF to women."

Since leaving the Service Michelle has become an Invictus Games athlete and sport has become a vital part of her recovery. The RAF Benevolent Fund helped Michelle with the cost of a two-year counselling course to set up her own Foundation for veterans suffering with mental illness.

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