The Forces Wives Challenge (FWC) seeks to unite wives and partners of Armed Forces personnel through adventure and challenge, combating the loneliness that can be so prevalent in our community. Army&You spoke to some of the members to find out more…
HAVING served in the Army for ten years, FWC founder Heather made the difficult decision to leave to look after her young family. In the military she went on operations, exercises, expeditions and took advantage of all the opportunities. When she left and moved onto the patch it opened a whole new perspective on life as a Forces family.
Heather said: “On posting after posting I found a diverse, dynamic and resilient group of spouses who had all made incredible sacrifices. It got me thinking, imagine what you could achieve if you harnessed these skills and united this community through adventure and challenge. Chosen, organised and delivered by us to celebrate our drive, ambition, strength and support for one another.”
Heather chaired the first meeting in her kitchen in August 2016. “Since then, we have organised 100 wives and partners to climb Pen Y Fan,” she explained. “We’ve tackled the Three Peaks, and we are now preparing for our biggest challenge yet – a team of Forces wives will be setting out on an adventure of a lifetime to summit the world’s highest volcano, Ojos del Salado in Chile. I hope this event will inspire many more Forces families to ‘dare to dream’.”
Having already taken part in climbing Scafell Pike, Etta is striving to be part of the Ojos del Salado challenge. She said: “What’s fantastic is that there are roles for all of us, from leading out front to the support from the sidelines. Social gatherings need to be arranged; there’s fund raising, publicity, social networking – the group has many facets.
“I’ve got my sights set on the summit but it’s comforting to know that I have had an important role to play and I’m valued. We are a team, no matter where, no matter what.”
Army spouse Susie said: “My biggest challenge was climbing Pen y Fan on Armed Forces Day. There were around 100 wives and partners and to some it would be a walk in the park, but for me, 12 weeks postpartum, it was tough! I was incredibly proud of my own achievement and of the success of our first FWC challenge.”
Many of us have experienced our partners going away or missing important family events and milestones. Heather believes the FWC offers a chance to unite with like-minded people.
She said: “At some point many people have felt incredibly lonely and isolated, often upping sticks every two years. By joining together and completing a challenge, it gives us something that is just for us and celebrates our unique community.”
Nicola had struggled to meet other people due to work and, with her children at boarding school and her husband deployed for nine months, being part of the FWC has helped combat the loneliness.
She explained: “It has given me a healthier outlook towards the Army and not having such a resentment for it. It’s made me realise I’m not alone and given me connections with others in a similar situation.”
Susie agreed: “The FWC has given me a focus beyond my day-to-day life. I gave up a career to move with my husband.
“The FWC offers me the chance to do something that is just for me and connect with people that I share common interests and goals with. Even though I am living away from close friends and family, I now have a new-found network of support.”
The FWC is keen to continue to grow, explained Heather: “We want to continue creating, organising and participating in challenges and believe the world is our oyster. Climbing Everest, swimming the Channel, cycling coast-to-coast – whatever your personal challenge is, why not?”
Etta added: “I would, without a shadow of a doubt, recommend joining the FWC. Before it began, I felt as though I was ‘just’ an Army wife.
“To be part of the FWC has changed my perspective. Through our combined involvement in something for ourselves, outside of our families, I now feel more of a connection to the military and the camaraderie that it fosters.”
Follow their exciting journey at forceswiveschallenge.org