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Wednesday, April 14, 1999 Published at 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK


Harrier husband left holding the baby

Women are still in the minority in the Nato armed forces

A senior aircraftsman with the RAF has been left holding the baby after his wife, a specialist air controller, was sent off to help with the Nato offensive.

Sergeant Suzanne Carpenter, from Cardiff, has had to leave her husband Gavin and two-year-old son Rhys to help out with Operation Allied Force.

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She is helping to plan Harrier bombing raids at their base in Gioia del Colle in southern Italy while her husband and baby are back at home at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire.

The Capper family's dilemma is an example of the changing face of the British armed forces, where women are playing an increasingly important role.

Suzanne, 33, and Gavin, 30, have been in the forces for 15 years. She has been told she will be away for at least four months.

Departed in tears

She said: "It was very difficult because I did not have time to say goodbye properly to my son or my husband. I cried at the airport like everyone else."

"It is hard because we are a very close family. Luckily I have the best child minder in the world and Gavin is wonderful with Rhys," said Sgt Capper.

She said: "My son just knows I have gone to work in a plane instead of a car.

"He is a very well adjusted little boy plus he gets to see helicopters every day which is a bonus," she said.

Sgt Capper says women are still a definite minority in the RAF but she says she is determined not to be treated as a special case.

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