First woman deputy head of UK military wants less hierarchical behaviour in the forces

The most senior female officer in Britain’s armed forces has been promoted to the rank of general and appointed  to the post of Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.

General Dame Sharon Nesmith is the first woman to become the deputy head of the military, replacing  General Gwyn Jenkins of the Royal Marines, who was recently made the new National Security Advisor.

Nesmith, who was previously deputy head of the Army as a lieutenant general, will also serve as Aide-de-Camp to the King. She was the first woman to command a British Army brigade, the first woman to command a British division-level formation and the first woman to be promoted to Lieutenant General in the British Army.

The Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin,  said Gen Nesmith was “an outstanding officer with an exemplary record of operational service combined with strategic leadership, Sharon brings a powerful mix of a moderniser and pragmatist”.

“Her comfort with delivering big capital programmes, increasing lethality and productivity, and embracing technology and looking after our people, are just some of the attributes she will bring and are necessary as we respond to the global security challenges,” he said.

General Sharon Nesmith (MoD/PA) (PA Media)
General Sharon Nesmith (MoD/PA) (PA Media)

As the Army’s deputy chief, Gen Nesmith said she wanted see less hierarchical behaviour and more “empowerment” in the service saying “just because we have lots of rank structure, doesn’t mean to say that we have to behave in a hierarchical way”. She was the author of the Army Race Action Plan which sough to embrace greater diversity.

General Nesmith, from Northumberland, is married to a tree surgeon and is the vice president of the Army Football Association.

She said: “I am very honoured to have been selected for the role of Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, especially during a period of such significant global instability. I am very excited to start in my role, with an amazing team of civil servants, regular and reservist service personnel around me.”

RAF Air Marshal Sue Gray remains the second most senior female in the UK armed forces.