A glittering Armed Forces in Wales Awards ceremony has honoured high achievers and recognised organisations who have supported Defence in 2016.
The event took place at Cardiff City Stadium and 12 people from across Wales were nominated in the four award categories of Sports, Youth and Cadet, Covenant and the overall Armed Forces Award.
The awards recognises those who have provided the most outstanding contribution in those categories.
Special guests on the evening were Martyn Williams MBE, the former Wales and British and Irish Lions international rugby union player, Welsh Assembly Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sergeant AM and Major General Richard Stanford MBE, General Officer Commanding Regional Command.
Public and private organisations from around Wales were also recognised for their support and commitment towards Defence with the Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Silver Awards.
Exemplar for others
Those receiving the Silver Award from Major General Richard Stanford, General Officer Commanding Regional Command, were Aartic, a training company based in Swansea, E-Cycle, an ICT asset management organisation in Tonypandy and Hywel Dda University Health Board.
Martyn Williams (pictured right) presented the Sports Award to Ian Taylor (pictured left), who recently left the Armed Forces having been an outstanding Aviation Technician within the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).
Due to a serious medical condition he was unable to continue his service career but despite this Ian sought every opportunity to improve his situation and has become a role model for other wounded, injured and sick military personnel.
Offered a chance to compete in the Invictus Games earlier this year he attended the trial in Bath and fought to gain his place in the Orlando Games.
Ian trained every hour available to him and achieved a Bronze Medal in the powerlifting finals. One sport is normally enough for most people, but Ian also achieved an incredible fourth place in the freestyle final and then collected a Gold Medal in the breaststroke final having achieved a personal best.
Ian is cited for his determination to overcome adversity and become an exemplar for others who may be injured or sick.
'Passion and enthusiasm'
The Youth and Cadet Award went to Warrant Officer First Class Neil Martin, the main coordinator for the Be the Best programme. Neil is a full time Reservist who has been instrumental in developing partnerships with organisations including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Probation Services, as well as colleges and training providers across Wales.
His citation reads: "Neil has gone far and above what would be required. He has taken candidates under his wing when it was evident that they could not progress without external support." This included working with councils and external bodies to ensure individuals had access to communications, transport and even housing and clothing in order that they could secure qualifications and employment.
Since the programme has started Neil has supported more than 150 young men and women into employment, with an equal balance between the Regular and Reserve Forces as well as civilian employment. He is cited for his “passion and sustained level of inspiration and enthusiasm” in supporting the unemployed into their ideal jobs, even if that is not the military.
Pictured: Cadet Warrant Officer Kathryn Flowers, Flight Lieutenant Graeme Muscat, Mr Alan Peterson, WO1 Neil Martin, Sergeant Nicholas Woodhouse.
Support for veterans
The Covenant Award recognises those who have played a key role in going that step further to realise the spirit of the Armed Forces Covenant and support the aspiration to achieve mutual understanding between the Armed Forces and the Community within which they live and serve.
The award went to Helen Odunaiya, the Partnerships Lead within Wrexham Borough Council. She has been instrumental in bringing together the council, the Armed Forces and partner organisations in Wrexham to form a strong professional network.
She is described by the nominating officer as “the glue that holds together the Armed Forces Community Covenant working group in Wrexham” and has made a real difference for Service Personnel, Veterans and their families in the area.
Helen was instrumental in bringing to fruition a fully refurbished home and facility in Wrexham that provides support for veterans who may be struggling with the transitions into civilian life or suffering from ill health.
Her determination to not take no for an answer and drive forward essential changes has been an inspiration to those around her.
Breaking down barriers
The overall Armed Forces Award recognises those throughout Wales who contribute to supporting the Armed Forces. This award is not confined to those serving in the Regular or Reserve Forces but can be from other areas of society.
The winner was Captain Paul Collis-Smith, the Director of Music for the Band of the Prince of Wales Division.
Paul was cited for his breadth of vision and for his ability to use music to break down actual or perceived barriers and promote greater understanding and unity where previously there has been hatred, mistrust and violence.
He has been instrumental in creating the Balkans All Stars Band, bringing together the previously warring nations of Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia.
He has instigated competitions in each of these countries creating a joint touring orchestra which recently played in Wales with six countries represented. He has also worked with the Government of Georgia, where he wrote a piece of music based on Welsh and Georgian folk music.
Closer to home he continues to work with youth organisations in Wales and was the driving force behind this year’s inaugural Military Festival of Music which took place in Cardiff Bay. Paul’s citation emphasises the immense impact he has had on youth groups within Wales as well as becoming an ambassador overseas, not just for the British Armed Forces, but for Wales.
'Serve their nation in the pursuit of freedom and justice'
Brigadier Alan Richmond OBE, Commander 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales and head of the Army in Wales, said: “This was a very special evening for us to recognise organisations and individuals for their very special achievements and was an evening of celebration.
“This is the third time we’ve held the ERS Awards and the second time we have honoured specific individuals for their achievements in the four specific categories.
“For centuries men and women from across Wales have served their nation in the pursuit of freedom and justice. This is never more in our minds than this year as we continue to commemorate the First World War and, in particular, the contribution of 38th Welsh Division at Mametz Wood on the Somme and the Welsh sailors who took part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
“The advent of the Armed Forces Covenant has articulated the unspoken contract between Service Personnel and their nation in a formal document but I am taken aback by just how far organisations from all sectors of society will go to support the Armed Forces family and both awards, the ERS and Armed Forces Awards, recognise that depth of commitment."