A British Army officer of 34 years is taking on a week of 24-hour endurance events across the North of England with no rest to raise funds and awareness for veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress. Major Simon 'Sip' Powers, Officer Commanding of 600 HQ Squadron, part of 6 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps at Dishforth, is leaving the forces this year on medical grounds and is dedicating his time to serving the charity Combat Stress.
The charity delivers specialist treatment and support to former servicemen and women with complex mental health issues – those who have several severe mental health conditions arising from military service. Major Powers has been planning the seven day 'Enduro7' endurance event for two years and it will finally take place following months of training on 28th June 2021. Each extreme event will last for 24 hours and will test Major Powers and his team’s physical and mental fortitude, with a target of raising £25,000 for Combat Stress.
Major Powers said: "The event has been designed to be exhausting, but also demonstrate the effects of dealing with mental illness. It will be a gruelling undertaking, but it is still nothing compared to what some of the men and women I have worked with are going through on a daily basis after they leave the armed forces."
Major Powers has worked with the Ministry of Defence’s Battle Back adaptive sport and adventurous training programme for wounded, injured and sick personnel for nine years, in partnership with Help For Heroes and The Royal British Legion. During this time, he has worked with hundreds of people who have been wounded in service, some of whom have continued to battle with their mental health after the programme and some have even taken their own lives.
Major Powers continued: "288 service personnel have taken their own lives over the last 10 years, which is double the previous decade and is a growing problem. I have been involved with Battle Back expeditions for this whole time period. At the start, when Afghanistan was raging, the participants were dealing with significant injuries such as missing limbs. On the last expedition I took part in, everyone was fully mobile, but they were equally as hurt and damaged as the first group through the impacts on their mental health."
"I have lost people close to me in this way. The forces do a terrific job of helping soldiers and other personnel whilst they are in the services, but the support available to them drops off a cliff when they leave. Combat Stress is the best charity I have seen which provides this essential support and it is vitally important that we raise its profile."
Enduro7 will see Major Powers and his support team undertake 24-hour challenges over the course of a week. All of these challenges will be completed without proper sleep. The only rest Major Powers will gain is during travel between the challenge locations. He will be joined by a team on the ground, who will take care of all administration tasks outside of completing the challenge, as well as joining Major Powers at intervals. The team will consist of Staff Sergeant Thomas Wilkinson, Lance Corporal Thomas Towers and Corporal Kane McCabe.
The team will also be joined for parts of the challenge by mountaineer Alan Hinkes OBE, who remains the first and only British person to claim all 14 Himalayan eight-thousand-foot mountains. Hinkes has links with the Royal Marines and will be with the team for the whole week. He said: "I will be having a go at a few of the events with Sip, but I won’t be doing them for 24 hours, that’s for sure. I am used to climbing and abseiling so I will be joining Sip on those events and I might also take part in the paddling and the biking too."
"Mental health is an increasing problem for veterans leaving the service, but also for civilians with the impacts of the pandemic still affecting us all. Combat Stress is an important charity which can help plug this gap in support and we all need to do our part to help raise its profile and some money through this event."
Robert Marsh, Director of Fundraising at Combat Stress, said: "We’re extremely grateful to Major Sip Powers for choosing to support Combat Stress with this truly astonishing endurance challenge and we will be cheering him on through every gruelling hour. We are 75 per cent reliant on donations and continue to need support throughout the pandemic to meet the needs of every former serviceman and woman who turns to us for help. Without the efforts of fundraisers like Major Powers, we wouldn’t be able to continue providing our unique life-changing treatment to help those veterans with complex mental health issues tackle the past and take on the future."
All members of the print and broadcast media are invited to cover Major Powers’ challenge. He said: "I would love for the media to support this unusual challenge. Most people have heard of Help For Heroes and Royal British Legion, but we want to get Combat Stress into the public consciousness at this level, too. I hope some coverage of the event will create some of this awareness and earn some sponsorship towards our £25,000 target. At present, we are just passing £5,000 of this, thanks to some generous donations. As well as money, we are receiving phenomenal support from the business community in the North of England."
"Chris Pomfret at Motif8 is a friend of mine and has provided all of the specialist clothing required for us to complete the challenge. Chris Moden from Web Design Studios has built us an incredible website from scratch for the challenge, which holds all the timetables, video content and information, as well as the all-important donation link. Brad Groves and his team at Great Annual Savings Group in County Durham have provided PR expertise and support to our media team and Mr Groves has personally donated more than £3,000 to our sponsorship total, which I am incredibly thankful for. Finally, Lee Armstrong at Opal Access is providing the specialist equipment, expertise and risk assessments required for our abseil free of charge, which is a huge help, and we would not be able to complete it without them."