RAF appoints first woman to command an 'operational' air group Air Cdre SA Marshall ADC 20191204 CREDIT RAF.jpg_.jpg

First female appointed to command one of RAF's two 'operational' groups

AVM Suraya Marshall follows in the footsteps of now-Air Marshal Sue Gray, who was the first woman to command an RAF group.

RAF appoints first woman to command an 'operational' air group Air Cdre SA Marshall ADC 20191204 CREDIT RAF.jpg_.jpg

Air Commodore Suraya Marshall has been appointed to be the new Air Officer Commanding of Number 2 Group, Royal Air Force, following her promotion to air vice-marshal.

This appointment marks the first time a woman has been appointed to command one of the RAF's two 'operational' groups.

Reflecting on her new appointment, AVM Marshall said: "It is an honour to be selected for this key command appointment. "It will be a privilege to lead the men and women of No. 2 Group, delivering air and space capabilities for UK military operations around the world."

The role of No. 2 Group is to generate, sustain and, when directed, command forces for current operations and develop forces for future Air Mobility, Force Protection, Battlespace Management and Space operations.

AVM Marshall will be commanding the RAF squadrons that operate the Voyager, C-17, C-130 and A 400M transport aircraft, plus the RAF Regiment and RAF Police among other force elements.

Newly appointed AVM Suraya Marshall pictured during her time commanding 55 (R) Squadron (Picture: RAF).

She said: "I am particularly proud to be the first woman in such a role, which shows that the RAF is a place of opportunity where people from all backgrounds can progress based on merit."

"Coming from a mixed-race background with no family connections to the military, I first became aware of the RAF as a potential career while I was at university."

AVM Marshall joining the RAF as a navigator in 1994 and flew for three tours as a Tornado F3 navigator participating in numerous operational deployments to Iraq.

She added: "When I joined, the RAF had only just started to allow women to fly in operational roles, so I never imagined I would progress to such a senior position. 

"I have had so many opportunities during my career, which I have found to be hugely rewarding and enjoyable."

During her flying career, AVM Marshall became the first woman to pass the prestigious RAF Qualified Weapons Instructor Course for the Tornado F3 in 2000, also holding several command appointments including No.92(R) Squadron and No.55(R) Squadron.

This appointment will be welcome news for women in the UK Armed Forces, and comes a month after the Chief of the General Staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith said  "reform and improvement is non-negotiable", following the publication of a report on the experiences of women in the UK military.

The report laments the findings that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is failing to protect female personnel.

Cover image: RAF appoints Air Vice-Marshal Suraya Marshall as the first woman to command an 'operational' air group (Picture: RAF).