EIGHT years ago, Sheffield ‘s Penny Lowe featured on The Star’s front page as one of the first female officers manning British checkpoints in Basra, Iraq.
Now the RAF Squadron Leader, aged 40, is helping draw up plans for the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan.
Penny, whose mum Jackie Lowe used to run Richmond post office in the 1980s, started her career as an RAF officer 16 years ago – after originally considering a career in travel and tourism.
She said: “I was brought in as a female search officer because men do not check women at checkpoints.
“The insurgents realised this so they were using women to smuggle items.”
Penny, who went to Ashdell School and Sheffield High School, both in Broomhill, was a catering officer in the air force but now works as a logistics officer.
She joined up after studying hotel and catering management at Sheffield Polytechnic.
“My mum suggested the RAF after stumbling upon it in a directory of good graduate employers,” she said.
Penny’s current deployment – the third of her career – came as a surprise.
She said: “I had been celebrating my 40th birthday at Disney World in Florida when I was asked to come out to Afghanistan for six months – with five weeks’ notice.”
Penny is usually based at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
“I’ve been out here 12 weeks but won’t finish the tour until Christmas.
“I’m working at Joint Force Support headquarters at Camp Bastion.
“The number of troops starts to scale down later this year and the role I have is developing future plans for British forces up to the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.”
Details are top secret but Penny added: “There is a lot of equipment to move and we are working on who effectively turns off the lights, locks the door and takes the keys home.”