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Major Steph McKenzie Headshot

From Engineers to Army Helicopters

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APACHE HELICOPTERS
PA

I currently work in Suffolk as the Officer Commanding 73 Aviation Company which is part of the only Aviation Battalion within the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, a specialist branch of the Army responsible for the repair, recovery, modification and regular inspection of the Army's equipment.

My principle role is supporting Army Aviation worldwide and I command a company of 90 military soldiers and officers and up to 35 civilian employees. I am currently the only female aviation company commander in the REME and I was one of the first officers to train on the Apache airframe back in 2003. I am responsible for maintaining and repairing the Apache Helicopter in Wattisham Station, this includes major scheduled serving packages and pre-and post operational ratification work as well as major assembly changes.

I am also responsible for providing trained, competent and militarily robust soldiers in support of operations and exercises with the Apache, Lynx, and Unmanned Aerial Systems. My responsibilities don't just start and end with engineering. I am also accountable for ensuring that the company is properly trained across a full range of military activities and skills such as shooting, fitness and battlefield first aid. I also report on my soldiers and they each receive an annual appraisal which may or may not recommend them for promotion to the next rank, depending upon their ability and performance.

major steph mckenzie

Other elements of my job include health and safety in the work place and dealing with any discipline, welfare or medical issue that may impede a soldier's ability to do his or her job either in barracks or when deployed on operations.

I won't go through my entire career but suffice to say it has been a mixture of command appointments, education and training courses, including a degree in aeromechanical systems engineering. I specialised in army aviation, training for a year to qualify as a REME aircraft engineering officer and my first appointment in this field was running a Platoon of sections sections responsible for off aircraft component repair - everything from composite repairs to engine overhauls and hydraulic systems.

I was promoted to major in 2008, and at the age of only 29 I was the youngest serving Major in the British Army at that time. I have since gained Chartered Engineer Status and was lucky enough to be nominated as the 2012 Institute of Mechanical Engineers' nomination for the Karen Burt Award, which is an annual national award run by the Women's Engineering Society for newly chartered female engineers.

My interest in the military and in engineering began when I was just in high school, probably from about the age of 12-13, I discovered that I really enjoyed physics and design technology. Around the same age, I joined the Air Cadets, where I was lucky enough to get an insight into military engineering and my passion for aviation started to develop. I always thought I would join the RAF, but after heading to the careers office one afternoon and finding it closed - I popped next door into the Army careers and four months later at the age of just 16 I found that I had left home and my military life had begun.

Science, technology and engineering have always been a passion of mine and this is why I am so pleased and honoured to be speaking at the Science Museum as part of their
High Performance festival - which marks International Women's Day.

About 18 years ago I remember listening to a talk by Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut in space. She convinced me that the only limits imposed upon you are the ones you impose on yourself. Now, in 2013, I'm delighted to be speaking at the same event as this inspirational woman. If I, like Helen, can help to inspire the next generation of young women to consider engineering as a career - then I'll be very happy.

Major Steph McKenzie will be giving a free talk at the Science Museum's High Performance festival on Saturday 9 March.

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