Lieutenant General Ivan Jones CB, Commander of the Field Army explained ‘today is about unlocking the tremendous potential of our people by inspiring a step-change in mindset and approach’. He went on ‘as a world-class Army we must lead the way promoting health and wellbeing, in building mental heath resilience and developing soldiers with an unrelenting will to win’.
The conference also heard from legendary England footballer Rio Ferdinand, who is one of the most decorated English players, playing 81 times for his country. Rio explained that soldiers also work at the elite level and as such, have a lot in common. He talked about metal robustness and breaking the taboo by encouraging people to not think that showing emotion is a weakness. He said, ‘being silent and suffering alone is very difficult’. Referring to the loss of his wife and his mother in a short period of time he went on, ‘years after experiencing some very difficult times, I have realised that it is not the way, speaking about how you are feeling really helps’.
Ben Ryan, who is regarded as the most successful men’s rugby sevens coach in the world also spoke and said; ‘I am delighted to be invited today, my father was a soldier and I am an Armed Forces rugby ambassador and it is a great opportunity to share my experiences in Fiji with the audience’.
A panel of military and civilian sporting legends such as England rugby world cup winner Maggie Alphonsi, double Olympic champion Major Heather Stanning and the captain of the England Netball team Serena Guthrie used their own experiences to discuss how the Army can inspire soldiers to make healthy life style choices. Mind, body and spirit was uppermost when former soldiers who have overcome horrific injuries shared their own experiences. Andy Barlow, who received a George Medal for his actions at the infamous Kajaki, said, ‘it’s alright to talk’ and urged the audience to get to know their soldiers and tell them ‘its OK not to be OK’.
The lunch break continued the healthy living theme through a cooking demonstration by the renowned Michelin-starred chef Adam Gray who promoted healthy cooking and eating.
General Jones closed the conference and was delighted with the day. He said ‘this has been a wonderful opportunity for the Army to listen to a whole range of people who are at the top of their game. To get there they have had to be strong in mind, body and spirit and was great to be able to hear from their experiences first-hand.'