RAF appoints first woman to command an ‘operational’ air group

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Source: MOD

AIR COMMODORE Suraya Marshall, following her promotion to Air Vice-Marshal, has been appointed to be the new Air Officer Commanding of Number 2 Group, Royal Air Force. 

This appointment is the first time a woman has been appointed to command one the RAF’s two ‘Operational’ Groups.

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.  As such, 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 amongst other force elements.

AVM Marshall follows in the footsteps of now Air Marshal Sue Gray, who was the first woman to command an RAF Group.  In the case of AVM Marshall however, she will be the first woman with an aircrew background to achieve command of a Group that also includes operational flying squadrons.

Prior to her promotion and new appointment, AVM Marshall has most recently been the Commandant of RAF College Cranwell, which selects and trains the next generation of officers and aircrew. 

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. 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.”

She added:

“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.  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.”

AVM Marshall joined the Royal Air Force as a navigator in 1994 and flew for three tours as a Tornado F3 navigator. During this time, she participated in numerous operational deployments to Iraq and conducted Quick Reaction Alert in defence of the UK and the Falkland Islands. 

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.  She has also held several command appointments including command of No. 92(R) Squadron and No. 55(R) Squadron.

In addition to flying duties, AVM Marshall has held numerous Staff Officer roles including being the Director of Coalition Air Operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan during 2019, and staff tours at the MOD.

Photo credit: Gordon Elias – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021. This image is made available under the terms of the MOD News License. It may not be used, reproduced or transmitted for any other purpose.

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