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Early setbacks no barrier for inspirational Welsh Guardsman

Dean Hughes struggled in school and could not quite find his calling, apart from taking an interest in physical education.

This was the only GCSE he had any success in after all others fell by the wayside.

One consistent thread which ran through Dean’s North Wales family, however, was a connection to the British Army: His great grandfather, grandfather and brother all having served with the Welsh Guards.

Dean decided this was the path for him and, after more than two decades of exemplary service, he has just become only the second Warrant Officer Class Two in the history of the Welsh Guards to have commissioned into the infantry.

“I wanted to join the Army and follow in my family footsteps and was committed to becoming the soldier I am today,” said Dean, a first-language Welsh speaker from Blaenau Ffestiniog.

“That, however, didn’t go to plan early on and my world was turned upside down when I failed my medical the first time due to a heart murmur.

“Not to be put off, I attended a medical in Frimley Park hospital shortly after and was given the green light to join.”

I still call on lessons learnt at the college today, especially when it comes to leadership and values. WO2 Dean Hughes

Dean’s military career started at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate in January, 2001, aged 16.

He said: “This was by far the best decision I made. I still call on lessons learnt at the college today, especially when it comes to leadership and values. It was a fantastic place to get you on your way to command level.”

On completion of AFC Harrogate and gaining the Best Junior Soldier Infantry award, Dean attended the Guards Training Company at Infantry Training Centre and learned the key aspects of being a Guardsman and both its ceremonial and warfighting roles.

Aged 17, Dean deployed to Bosnia as a member of the Prince of Wales’s Company, providing riot control for the province and shortly after volunteered with 60 others to become a part of the Close Observation Platoon to deploy to Northern Ireland, the youngest in the platoon.

He then trained and deployed to Iraq to form part of the Brigade Surveillance Company.

Dean said: “This was my first experience in the Middle East and my first experience working with the Reserves, as the Honourable Artillery Company were paired with us for the six-month tour.”

Following the deployment Dean was promoted to Lance Corporal and then experienced a tour to Kosovo before attending the Section Commanders’ Battle Course.

“It was here I found my first true passion – teaching,” said Dean.

“Shortly after I was posted to Guards Training Company as a Section Commander and cannot explain how good this was.

“During my time here I was fortunate to train eight Welsh Guardsman and later deploy with them to Afghanistan, joining my battalion on Operation Herrick 10.”

Dean then completed the Platoon Sergeants’ Battle Course and was promoted to Sergeant, taking over the reins of the very first platoon he had joined as a 17-year-old Guardsman.

He said: “I trained alongside a fantastic platoon commander and the company command structure was amazing.

I’m only the second Welsh Guards WO2 to commission into the infantry and am very proud of the fact. WO2 Dean Hughes

“We later deployed on Operation Herrick 16 as part of the 3 Yorks Battle Group and employed as an operations company.

“On return I was promoted to become the youngest Colour Sergeant in the Division, initially employed as the Training Colour Sergeant in battalion, but my passion for instructing continued to grow and I eventually ended up being posted to the Staff Leadership School in Pirbright, this time training instructors rather than recruits.

“On completion I promoted to WO2 and took over the role of Training Warrant Officer, or Company Sergeant Major Instructing Musketry, as we refer to them in the Guards.

“Eventually my role changed and I took over Company Sergeant Major of Number Three Company initially and then Headquarters Company, where I gained a greater understanding for our attached arms as well as our career processes.

“A stint as the Recruiting Warrant Officer followed, before I moved to one of the senior WO2 posts as the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Technical, or RQ Tech, as it’s more commonly known."

It was during Dean’s time as a WO2 that he received a One Star Commendation for actions during a fatal range incident and also a Three Star Home Command Commendation for work in Wales during Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

In total, Dean has been involved in five Queen’s Birthday Parades, the NATO Summit in Newport, Lady Thatcher’s funeral, a Royal Wedding, King Charles III’s proclamation and his Coronation.

He said: “These are very proud moments in my career – moments that make me realise how great this country is and also how the Household Division produces excellence in action for the whole world to see.

“Commission for me was always the goal.

“After a failed academic start to life the Army offered me an opportunity to right any wrongs and I found that studying while in the Army was more rewarding, with amazing teachers who’ve had a big part to play in my success, both before and during the commissioning process.

“Only 1.4 per cent of the infantry commission from WO1 (Warrant Officer Class One) and less than half of that will commission from WO2.

“I’m only the second Welsh Guards WO2 to commission into the infantry and am very proud of the fact.

“The process was pretty long, but manageable around a busy day job. I was fortunate to have friends who have been through the same process and having them on board to assist is exactly what being a soldier is all about.

“We help each other, support each other and celebrate each other’s successes.

“Finding out that I had commissioned was probably the best day of my career as it was daunting knowing I was up against some fantastically talented senior soldiers.

“I worked extremely hard to understand the process. My family are extremely proud, especially my wife and I’m very grateful for all her support.

“I hope that by commissioning from a WO2 I’ve shown others it can be done, but it’s not easy.”

I’m a fiercely proud Welsh Guardsman with a set of standards that I work hard to uphold, ensuring we are ready to produce excellence, be it on the forecourt or on operations, anywhere and at any time. WO2 Dean Hughes

Dean’s other deployments include two tours to Kenya, Jamaica and also Jordan, where he helped teach the King’s Honour Guard ceremonial drill

He also has a passion for Enduro motorsports and was responsible for creating Welsh Guards and other infantry teams.

He said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to manage an Army team and deploy to Germany, France and Chile to represent not only the Army but also Great Britain.

“This is one example of the sporting opportunities in the Army. I’m also busy conducting evening classes in vehicle mechanics, all of which has been funded by the Army using my learning credits.

“My main motivation has always remained the same – to make other lives better.

“Whether that is our soldiers or the people whose nation we are operating in.

“If one of my actions can make their day better, it’s worth doing. Investing in people is key and unlocking potential they may not have known existed.

“I’m a fiercely proud Welsh Guardsman with a set of standards that I work hard to uphold, ensuring we are ready to produce excellence, be it on the forecourt or on operations, anywhere and at any time.

“I want my 23 years of military experience to be utilised at higher levels in the Army and I’m looking forward to continuing to support soldiers, making them the best version of themselves.”

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