How the Royal Marines is aiming for its first female commando

The Royal Marines is looking for its first female commando - but how can they encourage women to join their training programme and make it more effective for them?

That's the question being asked as the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) Lympstone tries to gain a better understanding of female performance and what can be done to enhance it.

Figures from the Ministry of Defence state that from 2019 to the end of 2021, 250 female applicants to join as a regular Royal Marine Commando – to date, no female has passed out as a Royal Marine commando.

Forces News spoke to Sergeant Lucy Chappell of the Royal Marine Band Service who is the first female recruit instructor at Commando Training Centre Lympstone in Devon.

"I bring the recruits, the general service recruits, through their first four weeks of training at the commando training centre", said Sgt Lucy Chappell.

The sergeant added: "Since the end of 2018, women have been able to join general service Royal Marines training.

"Off the back of my experiences taking band recruit troops through training and to the trials I did for women in ground close combat back in 2017, just my basis of experience pulled me out of the band and into this role to be the first female instructor."

Sgt Chappell has been pivotal in integrating female recruits into Lympstone and continues to help shape their time there.

Sergeant Lucy Chappell has a unique role at Commando Training Centre Lympstone 12072022 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Sergeant Lucy Chappell has a unique role at Commando Training Centre Lympstone.

Sgt Chappell said: "Looking at infrastructure and kit and equipment and how we can make things better for the females coming through, I say better, but fair training for all.

"So now as my role as a troop sergeant, I can oversee those first few stages.

"Once they pass out of the royal prime then there is a mentor for them, so I can help with those little niggles and stumbling blocks that we've not considered, or just haven't realised yet through training, that we can help fix for everyone else to come in the future."

From across the military and from civilian life, Lympstone has assembled experts to gain a better understanding of female performance and what can be done to enhance it.

Two-times Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton attended a recent Royal Marines seminar and spoke during the 'Optimising Female Performance' presentation.

"It just takes one or two personalities to step through and pass to prove that it's possible. And then the barrier is open," she said.

Victoria Pendleton (right) Two-Time Olympic Cycling Champion joined a royal marines seminar exploring female involvement 12072022 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Two-time Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton spoke during the 'Optimising Female Performance' presentation.

Another seminar focuses on exploring the psychological and physiological aspects which may impact training and achievements for females – for example, some types of birth control for women have the potential to reduce bone density.

Dr Sophie Arana, Senior Scientist, Army Health and Performance Research, said: "Women are just not informed to the level that we'd like them to be. And I think, primarily, that's actually because there hasn't been an awful lot of research conducted on women.

"And it's not just within the military, it's kind of across society, where you realise that actually there is a huge gender data gap, and that really affects our ability to make recommendations to females."

The forum took a closer look at the science that is already out there as well as the knowledge that can be gained from personal experience.

Elite athlete and Army physiotherapist Captain Kat Matthews, Royal Army Medical Corps, said: "For me, as an athlete, I think it's probably one of the reasons why I've developed so quickly, it's because I spent a lot of time researching the data that is out there but also investing in myself.

"So, tracking heart rate during every session, looking at my sleep, the quality of my sleep, and my heart rate variability I've started looking at recently and just understanding my body in terms of where I should be during a hormonal cycle.

"I can use that information to give myself the best, sort of, I guess, mental health, mental resilience, to then approach my training."

There may not be a female Royal Marine commando yet, but what is evident, is the passion, potential, and progress at Lympstone.

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