ARMY officer Sarah Howes is preparing to march into battle – before walking down the aisle to wed her soldier fiancé.
The 26-year-old is embarking on her first tour of Afghanistan this year ahead of tying the knot with her boyfriend, a Territorial Army doctor.
The captain, who serves as an education and training officer with the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards (The Welsh Cavalry), is expected to embark on a six-month tour of duty in the warzone in the coming weeks.
She is also preparing for her nuptials next June.
Sarah said: “I hope to get the opportunity to speak to some of the Afghan females. That would test my language skills and my cultural awareness.
“But as long as we get back by May I’ll be happy because I’m tying the knot in June.”
Sarah is excited both about her impending tour and her wedding at Sandhurst to Tom Eckersley, a TA doctor currently working at an accident and emergency hospital ward in Liverpool.
She said: “My parents are very proud of me, but they are very nervous as well because they don’t really know what to expect.
“But we’re all fully prepared for this.
“It’s going to be the busiest year of my life.
“I’ve been with the regiment for a year and we’ve been training solidly for the last nine months,” said Sarah, from West Rainton.
“This is my first tour and there is some nervous anticipation to get out there.”
Her regiment, based at Dempsey Barracks, Sennelager, Germany, has begun deployment on Operation Herrick 15, with the majority of the soldiers out there during the 10th anniversary of Afghan operations.
They will form part of Task Force Helmand with the 20th Armoured Brigade, which replaces 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines as the lead formation of British troops.
“I’ve always wanted to join the Army since I was 16, after I watched a programme about girls at Sandhurst,” said Sarah.
“After university I trained there for a year and it was tough – the hardest year of my life – but I made loads of friends.
“I studied Arabic at university and now I speak Pashto, which is what I deliver to the soldiers.
“I’m the education officer so I deliver all the mandatory education they need to promote – the literacy and numeracy courses they need.
“As we’re moving into the transition phase in handing over areas to the Afghans, it’s very important we’re culturally aware.”