First woman to command Army training takes over role from husband

Lieutenant Colonel Lyndsey Kelly has succeeded her husband, Lt Col Shamus Kelly, as CO of No 1 Army Training Regiment.

Lt Col Shamus Kelly shakes the hand of his wife, Lt Col Lyndsey Kelly
Lt Col Shamus Kelly shakes the hand of his wife, Lt Col Lyndsey Kelly

The first female officer to command the No 1 Army Training Regiment has taken on the role – from her husband.

Lieutenant Colonel Lyndsey Kelly has taken up the appointment at the Army Training Centre in Pirbright, Surrey, taking over from husband, Lt Col Shamus Kelly, to command the 165-strong staff.

And as she takes up her new position, Shamus will continue working in the regiment’s headquarters, also in Pirbright.

The couple, who have two children, Alex, seven, and William, four, both joined the Army in 2001 before meeting nine years later during a training course and marrying in 2013.

An Army spokesman said: “When Lieutenant Colonel Lyndsey Kelly becomes the Commanding Officer of No 1 Army Training Regiment (ATR) at the Army Training Centre in Pirbright, not only will she become the first female officer to do so but, somewhat uniquely, she will be assuming command from her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Shamus Kelly OBE.”

Lyndsey, 42, said: “I have been in the training environment before and I enjoyed it so much which is the reason it was my preference to come back here.

“I love to be able to shape and influence the recruits, our next generation of our army, but I also love working with such motivated people.”

Shamus, 44, said: “The advice I would give Lyndsey is the advice everyone gave me before I took command, you have got two and a half years to invest in our people, it’s look after our people and very much enjoy the moment.

“When you have recruits in, they are vulnerable adults, they are very impressionable, so it’s a lot of responsibility to make sure you safeguard and look after them.”

Lyndsey said it was too early to say what changes she would make in the organisation but said integration was a priority for her.

She said: “From what I see, it’s a really well-oiled machine and I think integration is working really well and something I will keep a close eye on.

Lt Col Shamus Kelly and his wife Lt Col Lyndsey Kelly talk to soldiers
Lt Col Shamus Kelly and his wife Lt Col Lyndsey Kelly talk to soldiers (Steve Parsons/PA)

“I am particularly proud to be in this appointment, what I would like to think is when a male or female recruit start on day one they see there is no differences male or female, it’s completely normal and that’s what they should expect to find throughout their career.

“I am particularly keen on making sure this environment is a healthy one and reflective of the wider army and wider society.”

Shamus added: “As soon as recruits walk through that door, you don’t see it as a male section and a female section, they just see it as a team, men and women working together from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave.

“We need to be really confident our people will always try to do the right thing at the right time no matter the pressure they are under, and the only way you can make sure you have that confidence is when you take them through the basic training process, if you see any issues red flags where behaviour is unacceptable, that’s your opportunity to change that behaviour or weed it out.

“This is a really important filter process to ensure the next generation of soldier lives, breathes and operates in accordance with our standards.”

On working closely together, Lyndsey said: “I think we are both confident it wouldn’t cause any friction but equally we would be foolish to think there aren’t ever going to be any issues that we don’t have differences of opinion on.

The Kellys
The Kellys met in 2010 (MoD/PA)

“On the big stuff our values and standards are completely aligned so I think we are going to be fine but for a place like Pirbright, which has such an incredible tempo, and throw in covid to make it even more complex, there are undoubtedly going to be times when there are going to be some hard decisions to make.

“I think we are going to have to be pretty strict about not taking issues home, we have two little boys, our focus when we get through the front door should be on our two boys and we need to be quite disciplined about that.”

The Army spokesman added: “When Lyndsey takes command of 1ATR she will be charged with the responsibility of transforming civilians into basic trained soldiers, with up to 500-plus recruits going through training at an any one time.

“These are young men and women, some of whom will be coming straight from school, and all with little or no experience of service life whatsoever.

“The 14-week basic training programme teaches the recruits about the structure of the British Army, how to live and operate in the field as soldiers. It builds their physical and mental robustness through a progressive and challenging development programme.

“But, most importantly, it focuses on developing their character and immersing them in the British Army’s values and standards – critical to ensure that our people always do what’s right, even under the most testing circumstances.”

Lyndsey said that she would bring a fresh perspective to the role, not because of her gender but because of her personality.

She told the PA news agency: “I think certainly I will bring something different, not necessarily because of my gender but because we have different characters.

“Shamus is more forthright and robust while I am a bit more thinking and measured and take more time to come to my decisions.”

She added that she believed a female commanding officer would be a boost for new women recruits.

And she said: “I feel it is a positive role model for female recruits to see a female commanding officer, it normalises for them at an early stage in their careers that it is not about gender, it’s bout the best person in the job.”

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