Army Sportswomen – What Can You Achieve? Staff Sergeant Peta-Gaye Mahabeer Thomas

Staff Sergeant Peta-Gaye Mahabeer Thomas joined the Army in 2003 from Jamaica. "I was studying at Bradford College when I noticed some people playing basketball. It was a recruiting stand for the Army and they told me that if I joined I could ‘Be the Best’, play sports, and travel the world. They weren’t wrong!”

Although she described herself as a ‘tracksuit soldier’ for the first two years of her career, playing mostly basketball, she has since spent 10 years based in Germany, as well as postings to Scotland and Gibraltar, and deployed to Iraq three times.


While she has enjoyed her 20-year career so far and wants to continue, she admits the time has had its ups and downs. “Combining this with parenthood can be challenging. My first child arrived at 24 weeks. We were fortunate that it occurred in Germany because the treatment was covered privately by the Army; no expense was spared and we received only the best care.

The Army and the British Legion were fantastic,” she said. “The Army was extremely helpful, giving me a full year off with full pay. We had a welfare house where my husband and I could reside within minutes of the hospital while our daughter was in intensive care. She’s now 14 and is attending boarding school due to the Army subsiding 90% of the fees.”

Staff Sergeant Mahabeer Thomas now has a two-year-old but experienced four miscarriages between the births of both of her children. “After having two weeks off work after my fourth miscarriage, my new Commanding Officer (CO) asked why I hadn’t told anyone I was pregnant, or had a history and should be classed as high risk.

He explained his wife had also had two miscarriages,” she said. “When I opened up about my situation I discovered there were many other women with similar stories, and there was help available.” When she became pregnant again she told her CO straight away, who sent her to work from home for the rest of her pregnancy.

Although Staff Sergeant Mahabeer Thomas continues to play basketball for her cap badge and obtained her Army colours earlier this year, she is now more likely to be the one utilizing basketball to recruit the next generation.

“When I was passing through, I never saw a black staff sergeant.” So, I’d like to be that face for those that join now, demonstrating that you can get there. You can accomplish anything.

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