The first official team to represent the British Army in a 3,000 mile rowing challenge across the Atlantic is set to recruit its final member - who will be the youngest serviceman to ever undertake such a challenge in the world.
A junior soldier is to be selected from among the recruits of the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Harrogate later this year, joining the ranks of staff taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - which sees rowers setting off from the Canary Islands, to a finish line in Antigua.
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It’s been a long road for Lt Col Richard Hall, commanding officer at AFC, and Captains Alex Walsh and Chris Hames, with close to 18 months of hard work preparing for the challenge when ‘Force Atlantic’ set off from San Sebastian in December.
It will however be all worthwhile, says Mr Hall, raising funds for The Army Benevolent Fund, and also showcasing the ‘social mobility’ of the army with the 18-year old’s place in the team.
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He said: “This junior soldier has probably come from a really rough background, with very little opportunity, and failed schooling. It really demonstrates that the army will take someone and put them through this totally unique experience, perhaps in a way no other organisation would.
“That’s the real reason we are doing this, to demonstrate the opportunity, and also take the chance to raise money for Army Benevolent Fund.”
He added: “It gives these youngsters a sense of ambition, that life is there for the taking, and things like this aren’t for the privileged few. By joining something like the army, with a sense of adventure at its heart, the opportunity is there for everyone.”
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Despite years of experience between staff they too expect it to be a ‘grueling challenge that will put their 18-year old teammate through their paces
Mr Hall said: “It’s essentially six, two hour training session every day for 40 days. It’s a combination of the physical stress and mental challenge of very little sleep, sea sickness, salt blisters and sores.”
The team are currently seeking sponsors to hit a £83,000 target for the competition.
If you would like to help, visit www.ForceAtlantic.com