A COUNTY Durham hospital worker is thought to be the first woman in the region to pass the British Army’s gruelling Combat Infantry Course.

Rifleman Kirsty Rustman, of Durham, serves with Army Reserves Battalion the 8 Rifles.

Initially she joined as a clerk with the Adjutant General Corps but, after starting her basic training, her fitness and skills on field exercises meant she was soon encouraged to pursue an infantry career with the Rifles.

Reservist battalion 8 Rifles is made up of individuals who have civilian jobs in addition to being soldiers in the army and supports the regular army’s operations in the UK and abroad.

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Rifleman Rustman is a talent acquisition specialist for Circle Health Group recruiting to Circle Hospital sites in the North of the UK including Woodlands Hospital, in Darlington, which has a close relationship with Catterick Garrison.

Rifleman Rustman had wanted to join the army after University and had applied for the Officer Main Board.

After attending the Officer Briefing, she decided that a full-time career in the army wasn’t for her and the dream was put on hold.

After seeing an advert for a Reservist Clerk role in the local paper, she spoke to her line manager about what this would involve, conscious that becoming a reservist would mean that she might have to take time away from work.

The 34-year-old said: “My role working in recruitment is a high-pressured role faced with the challenges of recruiting Nurses and Theatre Staff during a pandemic where we supported the NHS at many of our hospital sites.”

“The army had always appealed to me with my thirst for travel and adventure training, however now I realise it’s so much more than that. It’s about learning new skills, being part of a comradery inspiring people and challenging me physically and mentally."

The Northern Echo:

Rifleman Kirsty Rustman

Ms Rustman’s line manager supported her joining the army and together they put a plan so she could fulfil her commitments in the healthcare sector while also serving her country in the Rifles.

She said: “Because I was open from the start when I joined Circle my line manager and colleagues were incredibly supportive and made sure that I could take the time off to complete medical assessments, basic training and the infantry combat course at Catterick.

“As an organisation, Circle Health Group has been incredibly supportive of the armed forces community.

“In my role as a talent acquisition specialist, I meet so many people from across the business who are interested in what I do at the weekend and are always eager to find out more about it. I have learnt so much since joining the Rifles.

“I have grown in confidence and working with people in the battalion from different walks of life has really enhanced what I do in my civilian job in the health and social care sector.”

Ms Rustman joined Circle at the height of the pandemic so had been working remotely for the majority of the last 18 months.

She said: “Going and being with the army at the weekend has helped me a lot during the pandemic. Since working from home, it's an escape and a great way to build relationships with likeminded people.”

The infantry only opened to woman in 2018 and having passed the selection course, as part of her role in the battalion, Ms Rustman hopes to go on to complete the junior non-commissioned officer's course in next 18-months also undertaking further specialist training as a member of the rifles.

“I am excited about what the future holds for me in the Rifles. It’s a great regiment to be a part of and the opportunities for growth as a reservist are incredibly. I hope to continue to push the boundaries of what is thought possible for women in the armed forces.”

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