Break the bias: How one female soldier has made history by breaking the mould

Dog Handler Sgt Jodie Lewis has become the first British woman to pass the Jungle Warfare Instructor Course.

The first female British Army soldier to pass the Jungle Warfare Instructor Course has been speaking of making history in British Forces Brunei in the run-up to International Women's Day – 24 hours dedicated to celebrating women's achievements and calling for gender equality worldwide, on 8 March.

Sergeant Jodie Lewis of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps is a dog handler at Jungle Warfare Division and the first British woman to pass JWIC – the intense and unforgiving Jungle Warfare Instructor Course in Brunei. 

However, there's an additional layer to her success. 

Up until this point only two women – Sgt Lewis and a Canadian woman – have attempted and passed JWIC which means women currently have a 100% pass rate.

The seven-week course teaches navigation, survival and infantry tactics from section to company level but training in the jungle isn't for everyone. 

During training, soldiers live in the jungle in heat that can go above 35 degrees while surrounded by animals, insects and plants that do not want you there.

Troops learn vital survival skills like what they can and cannot eat, how to live off the land, how to cut down trees and use the environment to make a shelter to sleep in – all useful skills to turn soldiers into an effective and adaptable fighting force.

Welcome to the jungle! A great short video from Sgt Jodie Lewis RAVC and the Dog Section of the Jungle Warfare Division in Brunei. #ravc #1mwd #militaryworkingdog #ams #armyjobs #bvnauk #thercvs #rcvs

Posted by 1st Military Working Dog Regiment on Thursday, 7 October 2021

Video contains flashing images

The JWIC course Sgt Lewis was on had 65 participants, of which she was the only woman. She felt the pressure to do well before she took the course because people were acutely aware that, if the soldier passed, she would be the first British woman to do so. 

However, any concerns she had soon faded away as she explained to Danni Griffiths, BFBS the Forces Station broadcaster, saying: "I think the guys learned very quickly as well how to adapt to having a woman on the course, which is actually, something that none of them have ever done before. 

"I don't even think the guys knew there was a woman on the course until day one." 

Sgt Jodie Lewis RAVC First woman to pass JWIC Jungle Warfare Instructor Course Brunei Picture BFBS
Sgt Jodie Lewis RAVC (Picture: BFBS).

Some who take the JWIC course leave due to injury or find they cannot bear the hot and humid Brunei weather. Motivation to continue on intense courses like JWIC is crucial – this is when teamwork comes into play as Sgt Lewis explained, saying: "This one time, one of the guys... was asking me, how am I finding it and I was like 'well obviously it's hard, you know, I'm tired'. 

"He turned round and he just said the reason he's still here is because I am, so it's a bit of motivation for a lot of the guys and I think we all team together. 

"So yeah, they're a really good bunch of guys and I think me being on the course actually gave them a little bit of extra energy they needed to get him through the course as well."

Sgt Lewis is keen to encourage other women who are considering joining the Armed Forces, saying: "If it's what they want, just give it a go. 

"I haven't regretted anything. 

"I've made some amazing friends, I've done amazing things, got some really good memories. 

"You never know, you could have the best life possible," she added.