Last month we told you that the team had been chosen for the forthcoming Walk of Oman. The individuals were put through their paces during a tough training week in the Lake District in July and all 6 of them showed the right amount of grit and determination to be able to take part in this grueling challenge.
So let’s meet them all and let them share their stories of how they got to this stage.
David Adams – Aircraft Technician
David spent 13 years as an Aircraft Technician in the REME and it was whilst he was serving in Afghanistan when he experienced traumatic events. This led to a diagnosis of PTSD and eventual medical discharge.
Since leaving the Armed Forces, David has received mental health support and therapy through WWTW and now has full-time employment in the Insurance Industry. David wanted to raise awareness of the good work that WWTW do to help veterans in a similar situation to his.
“My main reasoning for joining the walk of Oman is to show the good that WWTW do for the Armed Forces Community for both mental and physical health. I myself have benefitted directly and anything I can do to further aid the cause of WWTW, I will. It will also provide an opportunity to broaden the awareness of the ongoing problem with PTSD in the veteran and serving community.”
Andy Phillips – Armourer
Andy served for 10 years in the Royal Air Force from 1983 as a Junior Technician. He was injured in the build up to the Gulf War and eventually received a medical discharge due to spinal cord injury.
Andy struggled with the transition from Military to Civilian life but he became involved in the Invictus Games and this gave him a focus and a positive outlook.
“I found the transition to civilian life incredibly difficult, especially without any support. Since getting involved with the Invictus Games, I now have the family back that I lost when I was medically discharged.
I need to focus on achieving something and that, at the moment, is missing in my life. I really think the WWTW Oman expedition will give me that drive back.”
Ashley Winter – Challenger 2 Tank Crewman
Ashley was as a Challenger 2 Tank Crewman serving in Kosovo and Iraq when he was diagnosed with an eye condition, Keratoconus 10 years ago. Because of this, he found transition from Military to Civilian life difficult. However he chose to undertake various physical challenges to overcome it and inspire others.
“Since being diagnosed with Keratoconus, I have taken it upon myself to try and inspire others, testing my eyesight to the max. I have faced the cold on an Arctic expedition and was looking to do something similar but in the desert.
I feel that if I can prove that I can manage in these extreme circumstances, then an individual who has been diagnosed with the same condition can see that life isn’t over and things can be achieved.”
Ben McComb – Royal Artillery
Ben joined the Army Reserves in October 2005 whilst at University and served as a Private Soldier until 2011 when he started Officer training at RMAS and was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. More recently, Ben has been employed in Catterick as the Operations Officer for community engagement and community outreach within the NE of England.
Ben has neural impingement and nerve damage in his lower limbs, which is incurable. However, his condition is stable due to continuous self-rehabilitation management.
“I’m still serving in the army. Being injured doesn’t mean I am physically incapable of anything else. Taking on the Walk of Oman is a fantastic way to prove this, to both myself and the world! I will be representing every other serving injured soldier and demonstrating what they can still achieve if they put their minds to it.
I know many people who have been supported by WWTW, the charity has helped friends get their lives back on track. It is an incredibly important cause and one close to my heart.”
Sean Gane – Infantryman
Sean joined the Armed Forces in 1986 as an Infantryman. He served for 12 years between 1986 and 2014, leaving and later rejoining. He served on operational tours including Afghanistan and served his last tour in 2009. It was during this last tour Sean witnessed many traumatic events and was later diagnosed with PTSD and hearing and nerve damage. He was medically discharged in 2014.
Sean struggled with the transition to Civvy Street because he could not find a place where he ‘fitted in’ and he decided to start volunteering. He also received support from a Military charity where he later secured paid employment. Sean enjoyed his work supporting the ex-Military community because he had shared experiences and could understand the transition process from a life in the Military.
“When I was medically discharged from the Armed Forces I was pretty angry and as things went on, I became more disenchanted. I was bounced between Ministry of Defence and NHS for a couple of years. I eventually received support from a Military charity and even secured employment with them.
I’m incredibly excited about heading off to Oman. I love being outdoors and I’m looking forward to taking on the desert with a group of like-minded people, all whilst raising awareness of the incredible work WWTW does.
I know many people who have been supported by WWTW. The charity has helped friends get their lives back on track. It is an incredibly important cause and one close to my heart.”
Brian O’Neill – Staff Sergeant
Brian joined the Armed Forces in October 1990 aged 17 and served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Royal Military Police and Military Provost Staff Regiment. Brian served in 7 Operational tours including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant. Upon leaving the Military, Brian was treated for complex PTSD due to exposure to multiple traumas.
Brian served for 26 years and found the transition from Military to Civilian life exceptionally difficult; he missed the camaraderie and the familiar faces of the military ‘family’. Recently, Brian received support from WWTW’s Employment Programme and successfully gained employment as a Technical Sales Manager.
“I never underestimated the transition from Military to Civvy life, in fact I thought I prepared quite well, I gained a Degree in order to enhance my employment prospects, I secured accommodation for my family and I was offered my first Civvy job even before I left the Military.
It was really quite strange starting work, I was made to feel welcome and I tried to fit in, however I felt like a banana at an apple party. It’s hard to explain, no familiar uniform, no feeling of real camaraderie and familiar faces that you knew you could depend upon, no matter what were no longer there.
I’m taking part in the Walk of Oman because I want to get that “buzz of a challenge” feeling again. I want to demonstrate courage, resilience and determination with fellow veterans who speak the same language and be part of a team.”
We will be following the progress of the team throughout their training and preparation for the Omani Desert.