In November 2014 Caroline retired from the RAF after 35 years of service as a fast jet and battlefield helicopter navigator.
In 1999 Caroline became the first transgender officer to transition and serve openly in the UK military; she served the following sixteen years as a female aircrew officer. Once her circumstances were revealed the initial reaction was expectedly negative and occasionally hostile, however, Caroline soon began to win people over with her positive attitude, personal resolution and commitment to becoming a respected professional. Instead of hiding away she stood proud and proved her critics wrong. The tide turned, negative opinions gave way to respect and support and she went from strength to strength.
Caroline completed ten operational tours flying Merlin HC Mk3s in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan (between 2003 and 2013) and was lauded as a tactical expert on battlefield helicopter operations. Her work as a platform protection specialist provided significant enhancements to the operational safety of UK and US assets and was recognised with the award of three separate commendations for exceptional service, including one in the 2012 New Year's Honours List. Caroline's knowledge, success as an instructor and her can-do personality has also been recognised by several European military forces who are still seeking after her skills and knowledge.
In 2011 Caroline received an award from PUS MOD for being a positive role model for diversity and equality and for her work and inspirational commitment. She has presented at conferences within the RAF, the MOD and as a key panel member speaking at a recent international conference held in Washington DC.
Many organisations these days place considerable value on equality and diversity in the workplace and Caroline feels she can contribute in this regard. With a long and varied military career, including seventeen operational tours and over 5000 hours of diverse military flying Caroline also has a credible and interesting background and range of experience.
Caroline's service career and personal life have both seen more than their fair share of unremitting challenge, but she has won through and even risen above the expectation of her critics. She is willing to talk about her personal experiences because she has sixteen years of seeing the clear benefit that it brings. Enlightening people helps them to better understand themselves and how they regard others. It helps companies and individuals to consider unique challenges and how they would deal with them. It also provides a remarkable opportunity for people to listen, learn and understand what it truly means to be diverse; hearing positive accounts from someone who is different usually removes any apprehension and misunderstanding, frequently caused by rumour, stereotypical beliefs, unfounded prejudice or just plain simple unawareness. This facilitates the positive development of individuals, which in turn provides invaluable benefits to the team and its capability.