ONE of the country’s top intelligence officers has inspired Trafford schoolgirls to ‘think big’, have curious minds and fulfil their potential.

Colonel Phaedra Mclean, the most senior reservist in the Intelligence Corps, told Loreto Grammar School girls “there is a place for you in whatever it is you dream of doing.”

As guest speaker at the Altrincham grammar school’s Speech Night at the Bridgewater Hall, she captivated students with her tales of delivering top secret intelligence to army battalions in war zones.

Setting an example for the schoolgirls, Colonel Mclean became the first female Army Reservist ever to command an Intelligence Corps Reserve Battalion.

In 2002, she served in London working towards operations in Iraq and in 2006 served in Afghanistan for six months.

She is now responsible for over 1,500 people and is in control of all Military Intelligence personnel within the Army Reserves and the permanent military and civilian staff that support their activity.

The girls listened with rapt attention in the packed auditorium as Colonel Mclean explained the hard graft it takes to rise to such a prominent position in the military.

She said: “A lot of painstaking work has to be done to deliver timely and accurate intelligence to commanders, at all levels, to support their decision-making process, while at the same time preventing opposing forces gaining information on ourselves.

“What we want are recruits with curious minds able to understand complex situations but also calm and purposeful and able to work under pressure.

“We need women who are persistent, positive and determined, and who believe they can achieve anything in whatever they choose to do.

“My advice is if you want to try it, then do. You’ll have more regrets if you don’t and you will never know just how far you could have gone. The only barrier to what you can achieve is you.”