The RAF has appointed its first ever female two-star officer and in doing so has shown that the sky’s the limit for women in the military, the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announcedAVM West OBE today. Elaine West (51) has been promoted to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal to take up the role of Director of Projects and Programme Delivery at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. She will lead the way in programming and delivering multi-million pound infrastructure projects to support military training, improve defence capability and oversee the draw down of Army units from Germany.

Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West joined the RAF in late 1978 and through her commitment and leadership has climbed through the ranks over her 34-year career. She has served her country in bases across the world and her appointment will now help to inspire generations of women to continue aiming high to reach the top ranks within the military.

Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West said:

“It is with enormous pride that I take up my new appointment as Director of Projects and Programme Delivery within the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. I am privileged to have served in the RAF and to have enjoyed so many challenging roles over the years. To now be the first female military two-star is a truly unexpected bonus.

“I know so many inspirational women across all three Services who continue to make a substantial contribution to operations and our Armed Forces more widely. This is a terrific opportunity and one that I’m looking forward to immensely.”

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“We need the best and the brightest talent in senior positions as we transform defence over the next few years as we build Future Force 2020 and that means selecting people from across defence, irrespective of gender. I am pleased that we are demonstrating in Defence that there are no „glass ceilings” for female officers who have the necessary abilities to rise to the senior ranks.”

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford said:

„Elaine West‘s promotion to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal is thoroughly well deserved and I wish her every success in her challenging role within the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.

“The Royal Air Force is proud of its record as an equal opportunities employer, we were recognised most recently by the Times as one of the UK’s top 50 Female Employers, and it is fantastic to see more female officers reaching top positions within the Service. The vast majority of roles in the Armed Forces are open to women and I would encourage everyone, regardless of gender to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them within the military.”

Throughout her 34 year career in the RAF, Air Vice-Marshal West has enjoyed over 18 roles whilst still maintaining family life as a wife and mother. She joined the RAF direct from school at the age of 17 in the lowest rank as an Aircraftwoman. Her career has taken her to bases across the world where she has managed the final tranche of RAF downsizing across North West Europe and overseen service delivery of UK-wide military accommodation before becoming Head of Programmes with full responsibility for programming Defence infrastructure across the entire Ministry of Defence estate.

Prior to Air Vice-Marshal West’s promotion, the highest rank held by a regular serving female officer in the modern day RAF was Air Commodore which is a one-star post. In the WAAF and WRAF there had been a two star rank of Air Chief Commandant. The highest ranking female officer in the Navy has been Commodore. The highest rank achieved by a woman in the Army has been Brigadier.

The Armed Forces are committed to increasing its number of female personnel and to promoting diversity at all levels. 40 per cent of the RAF’s intake for 2011/12 were female and the RAF has consistently received extensive recognition for its work on gender equality and in promoting career opportunities for women. For example the RAF has been awarded a place in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women for the last three years in a row.

Source / Author: RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013

Photo: RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013