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First ever female three-star commander in UK military 'incredibly proud'

Handout photo dated 20/02/2019 issued by Minster of Defence (MOD) of Sue Gray, a Royal Air Force engineer, who has been promoted to the rank of Air Marshal, making her the most senior female military officer in the British Armed Forces. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 20, 2019. See PA story DEFENCE Gray. Photo credit should read: MOD/PA Wire. NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

By Georgina Stubbs, Press Association

The first ever female three-star commander has said she is "incredibly proud" to become the most senior woman in the UK armed forces.

Promoted to the rank of Air Marshal, Sue Gray, a Royal Air Force engineer, will take up the role of director general of the Defence Safety Authority in March.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson welcomed the appointment of the 56-year-old, who joined the RAF in August 1985, as "an historic moment".

Air Mshl Gray said: "I am incredibly proud to be the most senior female military officer in the British armed forces.

"Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have a job that was more of a way of life, working with like-minded people in an exciting and rewarding environment."

She added that she has been "privileged to lead highly successful teams in military and civil service, through some challenging situations on operations and back at home".

During her career Air Mshl Gray has worked in a variety of roles, including engineering on VC10 transport aircraft, and also deployed on both Gulf wars with the Joint Helicopter Force.

In June 2016 she was appointed Air Officer Commanding Number 38 Group, with responsibility for more than 3,000 personnel across disciplines including engineering, logistics, aviation medicine and catering.

Before her promotion, the highest rank held by a serving female officer in the modern day RAF was Air Vice-Marshal, which is a two-star post.

Welcoming the appointment, Mr Williamson said: "This is an historic moment as we see the most senior female appointment in the British military.

"Air Mshl Gray's career shows that with hard work, skill and determination, gender is no obstacle to achieving the top ranks in the armed forces.

"Having served in Iraq as the chief engineer for the Joint Helicopter Force, I hope that young girls will look up to Air Mshl Gray and see that a career in the armed forces will offer them every opportunity to succeed, irrespective of their gender and background."

The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, offered his congratulations and said he wishes her "success in her important new role leading the Defence Safety Authority".

"Her promotion is proper recognition of her outstanding contribution to the RAF and defence, as an engineer, as a leader and as a superb role model," he added.