A SOLDIER has spoken of his pride after becoming the first Muslim to join a Portsmouth squadron.
Airtrooper Ebrima Jallow is one of the new recruits welcomed into 679 Squadron, Army Air Corps, in Hilsea on Tuesday night.
The 34-year-old is the first Muslim soldier in the squadron – fulfilling a dream he has had since he was a small boy growing up in the Gambia.
Airtrooper Jallow will now be supporting helicopter squadrons alongside fellow reservists from 679 Squadron.
He said: ‘Joining the army has been a long time coming, and something that I have wanted to do ever since I was growing up in Africa.
‘I had thought about joining the army full-time in the past, but wanted to be able to balance my time in the armed forces with my work and my family.
‘It was my wife who convinced me to think outside the box and join the army reserves.’
As the first Muslim soldier in 679 Squadron, Airtrooper Jallow says that he wants to show people that the army is accessible and welcoming for everyone.
He said: ‘When I joined I didn’t know I would be the first Muslim soldier in the squadron – but I was a bit nervous about it at first but also very proud of it.
‘Everyone in the army has been so welcoming though and there was nothing negative about it – and being a Muslim didn’t hold me back in any way either.
‘The only thing I had to really work around was my diet – but there were continental breakfasts that I could have and I had the vegetarian options when pork was on the menu.
‘I just wanted to become part of the British Army as soon as I could, and do the best that I can.
‘I think it would be great to have more minority groups in the reserves – the army is so welcoming regardless of what your background is.
Now a fully-fledged member of 679 Squadron, Airtrooper Jallow is looking forward to the challenges ahead.
Warrant Officer WO2 Jonathan Old said: ‘Airtrooper Jallow has shown his level of commitment and is incredibly steadfast in his approach.
‘It really is onwards and upwards for him now.
‘I think having our first Muslim soldier is very significant – it is important that we dispel any rumours about equality and inclusiveness in the army.
‘At the end of the day we recruit from all walks of life and want to encourage people to think about the army reserves as being a second family for them.’