L-R: David Adams, Ben McComb, Sean Gane, Brian O’Neill, Ashley Winter and Andrew Phillips
Following a rigorous selection process which took place between 15 to 19 July, military charity, Walking With The Wounded (WWTW), is pleased to announce the final team participating in the Walk of Oman expedition.
Formed of five ex-military personnel and one member still currently serving, all six of the team have physical or cognitive injuries and will tackle one of their toughest challenges yet, as they pull a custom-built cart weighing in excess of 300kg (around three times their own bodyweight) across the Omani desert.
Starting on 20 November and ending on 11 December 2020 the team will take on an epic trek inspired by Wilfred Thesiger. Thesiger, a British military officer, travelled across the Arabian Peninsula in the 1940s, and the trek will see the team embrace the same hostile conditions in the Omani desert. The expedition will end on Oman’s Armed Forces Day.
Highlighting the extraordinary courage of the men and women who have been injured, both physically and mentally, while serving their countries, the walk will showcase the need for continued support in aiding the transition from the Armed Forces into civilian life.
Experiencing extreme temperatures as high as 95°F and trekking between 20 km to 22 km per day in what will be an unforgettable three-weeks of strength, determination and grit, the team facing the desert are:
- David Adams – David spent 13 years as an Aircraft Technician in the REME, serving in the UK, Afghanistan, Cyprus and Oman. David was medically discharged after a diagnosis of PTSD, following traumatic events whilst serving in Afghanistan.
- Sean Gane – Joining the Armed Forces in 1986 as an Infantryman, Sean served for 12 years between ’86 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.
- Ben McComb – Ben joined the Army Reserves in October 2005 and served as a Private Solider until 2011, during which time he was selected for officer training. In 2011, he commenced regular officer training at RMAS and commissioned into the Royal Artillery. 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.
- Brian O’Neill – Brian joined the Armed Forces in 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 during his 26 years of serving in the Armed Forces. He found the transition from military to civilian life exceptionally difficult.
- Andrew Phillips – Having served in the Royal Air Force from 1983 – 1993 as a Junior Technician, Andrew was injured in the build-up to the Gulf War and eventually received a medical discharge due to a spinal cord injury. Struggling with the transition from military to civilian life, he became involved in the Invictus Games which helped him regain focus and a positive outlook on life.
- Ashley Winter – Ashley served as a Challenger 2 Tank crewman serving in Kosovo and Iraq. He was diagnosed with Keratoconus ten years ago and has undertaken various physical challenges to inspire others.
The final team of six were chosen following a five-day selection process in which they hiked across different peaks in Grasmere, Cumbria. With the walks varying each day from 5 km to 20 km, the team were able to test their physical capabilities, whilst walking in an unpredictable climate and across tough terrains.
Ed Parker, CEO of WWTW said:
“We are very excited to have been able to take all six candidates as part of the team from the selection week process. The team face an immense challenge ahead of them and each will be tested mentally and physically. Throughout the selection week process, each candidate embraced the task ahead and cemented the bond formed between them that will put them in good stead for the Omani desert.”
The Walk of Oman is supported by The Duke of Sussex in his role as the official Expedition Patron, along with support from the Royal Office of HM Sultan Haitham bin Tariq and in partnership with the Omani Armed Forces. The team will be followed by a support team in case of emergencies during the course of the expedition.