UK beauty queen set for deployment to Afghanistan

A FORMER Miss England may be deployed in Afghanistan as early as next year after she returned to the Army following her term as a beauty queen. Corporal Katrina Hodge, who has already served in Iraq, swapped active duty for the glitz and glamour of the catwalk when she took the title last January. But she has now handed over her crown and is back on exercise in Army fatigues, preparing for a possible tour of war-torn Afghanistan. The married soldier, decorated for her bravery in Basra, Sunday insisted she was glad to be back in the forces and ready to take on the challenge. At the end of the day, its my job. If thats what Ive got to do, then thats what Ive got to do, she said. Its hard to be excited about going to Afghanistan but its the reality of our job. Our job is to be out there, protecting our country. Corporal Hodge, 24, tied the knot with husband Neil - a soldier whose surname cannot be disclosed for security reasons - in a secret ceremony in Sri Lanka in June. Three months later, when her spell as Miss England came to an end, she joined a new regiment and was thrown back into Army life. This involved a month on exercise and tough training to get her up to speed. Im not going to lie, it was hard to come back, she said. Its definitely a change of lifestyle from having your hair and make-up done every day to being in your combats and having your hair scraped back. I was thrown in at the deep end and realised that this was reality. Agencies I went on exercise and it was hard because I was living in woods, having spent the last year living in amazing hotels around the world. To go straight back to this, it was definitely a culture shock. She admitted she had been apprehensive about how she would be received by fellow servicemen and women. When people met me, they knew I had been Miss England and I think people had an opinion of me, she added. Then they realised that Im just a normal squaddie. Its nice having a bit of banter at work and its nice being back in the Army. There are days when I miss getting dressed up and going to an event but the Army is my life and the Army has made me who I am. Corporal Hodge, from Brighton, joined the forces as a 17-year-old and served with 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, in Iraq for seven months before becoming a beauty queen. She has written a book about her experiences. Combat To Catwalk comes out on April 4 and is available to pre-order. Jessica Linley, 21, a law student at the University of Nottingham, is the new Miss England.

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