Sergeant Sarah Webster
Why did you join the Army?
I joined the Army in 1999. I was in my first year of university and actually joined the Army Reserve because I felt I wanted something more out of life so thought I would give that a try. I didn’t really know what to expect but I did look at it as an opportunity to improve my fitness and organisational skills. In April 2001 I transferred to the Regular Army.
Describe a moment or event that is most memorable during your time in the Army.
Two moments come to mind – one before I was wounded and one since.
Obviously I remember my first deployment – I think we all do. Mine was to Iraq in 2006. I was part of a combined arms team of 110 personnel and was one of only three women in the team. I was also the only woman to reside at Forward Operating Base Union – the other two women resided at the Australian Embassy.
At the start of the deployment my Officer Commanding (OC) asked me how I felt about being the only woman among so many men and I told him that, honestly, I was fine with it. As a female soldier it is common place to be the only woman or one of only a few women in a detachment or section, plus I had deployed with an infantry platoon on exercise before.
What I remember is that it didn’t matter to anyone that I was the only woman among so many men. We were all there to do a job and that’s what we all focussed on.
The other moment I remember is competing in the Wounded Warrior Games and U.S. Marine Corps Trials in February of this year (2012) at Camp Pendleton, CA.
There were more than 300 participants and every one of them was there because we wanted to improve ourselves physically within our limitations and learn from each others experiences.
When you watch a triple amputee swim the 100m freestyle, it’s not only very, very inspiring but it also really encourages you to want to get up and achieve something great and help soldiers in a similar position do the same.
What do you consider to be your greatest success in Army?
I wouldn’t call it success in the traditional sense but in 2006, during my first deployment, I was severely wounded in Iraq and my decision to continue my career in the Army and return to full duties is something I am proud of. My injuries kept me out of full duties for about eight months and I pushed pretty hard to get re-deployed in 2008. Perhaps more importantly my choice to stay in the Army and continue my career now inspires me to interact with other wounded soldiers and look at ways I can help them with their recovery, their rehabilitation and their future whether that be in or out of the Army.
Who has been the most influential person throughout your Army career?
I have taken a lot of advice from many different commanders and senior unit staff during my career in order to improve myself. My Officer Commanding (OC) during my 2006 Iraq deployment was particularly inspiring due to his rapport with his soldiers and his ability to stand strong under trying events and intense scrutiny. To be able to retain your composure and leadership during times like that is an impressive quality and one to aspire to.
In a completely different way, many if not all of the people I met at the Wounded Warrior Games and U.S. Marine Corps Trials had a huge impact on me and really influenced where I would like my Army career to go.
What is one important piece of advice that you can pass onto other women considering a career in the Army?
A career in the Army is not different for a woman or a man. Everyone is a soldier first and the pride of serving your nation doesn't change because of your gender. My advice would be to know why you want to join and to establish goals to strive for. I think it’s also important you’re prepared to adapt to different and sometimes unexpected situations. Being able to adapt but still continue is something the Army does well. It’s a good life skill to have and one that can open your eyes to areas and things you hadn’t considered before.
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