AN EX-England footballer has become the first ever female officer selected to lead the parachute regiment.
Hannah Knapton will join one of Para’s battalions later this year after beating many male rivals at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Hannah is expected to wear her new parachute regiment beret once she has completed her final exercise.
The historic decision was made earlier in the year after she was interviewed by a board of Para officers.
Now she will have to pass the brutal course ‘P Company’, which includes eight difficult challenges across five days.
Among them, Hannah will have to march 10 miles with 35 lb backpacks in an hour and 50 minutes, complete an attack course, a 1.8 mile tower hunt and carry a 140 lb tree trunk as part of a team of eight for over two miles.
After completing P Company, she will then take a three-week parachute course at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, after which she will receive her Para ‘wings’.
Hannah, from Hampshire, was a talented athlete before being selected for the elite parishes.
She previously played football for England under 17 girls and continued her career in Sweden before returning to the UK.
“This is a remarkable achievement,” a Sandhurst source told the Daily Mail.
“For any officer, commanding paratroopers is a daunting prospect.
‘BEST OF THE BEST’
“The pressure is enormous because the regiment’s standards are so high – and if an officer does not cut it, the guys do not respect them.”
The source went on to say how the role will take a lot of courage and calm, but that Sandhurst chooses the “best of the best”.
“To be the first woman to find herself in this role, there must be a lot of courage and calm on her part,” the source said.
“Only eight cadets from the score who applied were invited for the interview, and Hannah is one of five who go on from there.”
The Parachute Regiment was formed in World War II under a decree by Winston Churchill and has been in action ever since.
Nicknamed “the red devils” by the Germans in North Africa, the soldiers have done stints in Normandy, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands.
To date, only one woman has passed ‘P Company’, which is the toughest military choice outside the special forces.
Captain Rosie Wild, then 28, of the Royal Artillery received her beret last year.
In 2018, the Secretary of Defense announced that women could apply for any role in the military.
Then-Secretary Gavin Williamson revealed that women already serving in the Army are capable of transferring to infantry roles – including special forces.
The Royal Armored Corps was the first close combat branch to open its doors in November 2016 to female soldiers and officers, followed by the RAF Regiment in September 2017.