2024 Judges

To ensure each nomination is judged fairly, a stringent process is executed by two separate groups: the Category Judges and the Independent Judging Panel. Full details of the Soldiering On Awards judging process can be found here.

Independent Judging Panel

Lt Gen Richard Nugee CB CVO CBE

Co-Chair of Judges

Lieutenant General Richard Nugee was commissioned into the Army in 1986. He served on numerous operational tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Cyprus and Afghanistan while at the same time focussing on personnel (HR) roles within the Army and Ministry of Defence. This included instructing at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, being responsible for the organisational design of the Army post the 2010 Defence Review; and latterly spending the last 4 years as Chief of Defence People (i.e. Defence Global HR Director) responsible for central policy for all Service personnel, their families, all Defence Civil Servants and the nation’s veterans. In January 2020 he took on a review of Defence’s approach to delivering carbon net zero by 2050 and is the Defence representative across Government for COP26.

Appointed MBE in 1998, CBE in 2012, CVO in 2016 and CB in 2020 he was awarded the US Legion of Merit for his services in Afghanistan in 2014. He has numerous interests both within Defence and outside, including as a Non-executive director of the NAAFI. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute, has an MA in Military Affairs and is a Graduate of the City and Guilds Institute. He is Chair and Trustee of a number of charitable trusts.

“I am delighted to have been asked to co- chair the Soldiering On Awards Judging Panel. The breadth and quality of the submissions will make this both a very hard and yet a hugely rewarding experience.” 

Debra Allcock-Tyler

Co-Chair of Judges | CEO of The Directory of Social Change

Debra has been the Chief Executive of the Directory of Social Change (DSC) since 2001. DSC exists to support charities to serve their communities and their causes and reaches around 15,000 charities a year through its work. She is a Trustee of In-Kind Direct, a Trustee of the Berkshire Community Foundation, an AAF (Africa Advocacy Foundation) Ambassador for Women and Girls at risk of, or affected by, FGM and other harmful practices and, until very recently, was the Vice Chair of Governors of White Knights Primary School. She was the founder Chair of the Small Charities Coalition. She was a member of the Charity Commission’s SORP Committee for 7 years. 

Debra is particularly proud of her 15 years as a voluntary Trade Union Officer and the year she spent working with Youth at Risk. She is a mentor to a number of CEOs and Chairs of Trustee Boards. Debra is a renowned authority in the field of leadership and governance in civil society, and an internationally published author. 

“It’s one of the greatest honours, and hardest jobs, to judge these awards.  The nominations are always so powerful and inspirational and choosing someone out of a field of so many amazing people and organisations is not easy! But the result is a wonderful celebration event where we can share with the world the brilliant work of our military community.” 

Helen Helliwell - Soldiering on Awards

Helen Helliwell

Director, Armed Forces People Policy. Ministry of Defence

Helen is the Director for Armed Forces People Policy in the Ministry of Defence. The portfolio develops and maintains strategies and policies that attract, retain, and sustain a sufficient, capable, and motivated Armed Forces through the provision of world class enabling people policies. These policy areas include health and wellbeing, welfare, accommodation, families and safeguarding, remuneration, and support to families and veterans through the Armed Forces covenant. 

Helen is also the Chair of the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund which receives £10m of funding each year to support our Armed Forces Community. 

“It is inspiring to be involved and see the many ways that serving and former serving members of the Armed Forces, and their families, make such significant contributions to wider society.”

Anisha Worbs

Director of the Office for Veterans' Affairs

Anisha is the Director of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) in the Cabinet Office.  The OVA leads UK government efforts to make sure the UK is the best place in the world to be a veteran, helping the nation fulfil its duty to people who have served in the armed forces.  Before joining the OVA, Anisha had leadership roles in social policy, economic policy and operational delivery including at the Home Office, (former) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

“I am delighted to join the panel for the Soldiering On Awards.  It is a real honour to be part of the process for celebrating outstanding achievement in the Armed Forces Community.”

Nick Pope

Lt Gen Sir Nicholas Pope KCB CBE

Chair of Cobseo

General Nick was most recently Deputy Chief of the General Staff, the Army’s Principal Personnel Officer, and he also led on strategic planning and programming, performance management and international relations. He was the Army Champion for safety, diversity and inclusion, and for the LGBT+ community. 

During a forty year military career, he witnessed how the Army and Defence accommodated change both in peace and on operations. He saw service in Bosnia and Afghanistan and held staff appointments in the Ministry of Defence at every rank from Major to Major General, where his focus was on the higher management of defence.  In the latter stages of his service, he was Master of Signals, Colonel Commandant of the Brigade of Gurkhas, and Chair of the Gurkha Welfare Trust. His is currently Chairman of Godolphin School in Salisbury and a Board level strategic advisor. He remains an avid gardener and a keen canoeist, paddling with enthusiasm but no real technique. 

“For me, the American predisposition to say “thank you for your Service” is an important part of recognition and reward. It makes a person, or an organisation, feel valued. It inspires. It incentivises. The Soldiering on Awards ceremony presents an opportunity for us to do something similar. It allows us to shine a spotlight on those individuals, or teams, who “go the extra mile” for their community. As a judge, it’s a real privilege to add to the process, if only in a small way. Long may it last!”

David Richmond CBE

CEO of the Royal Hospital Chelsea

David Richmond spent 26 years as an infantry officer and was medically discharged after being seriously wounded in Afghanistan while Commanding Officer of 5 SCOTS. He joined Help for Heroes as their first Recovery Director in 2012 and created their recovery services from scratch. Leaving Help for Heroes in 2017 he started his own consultancy, which he left when he was invited to become the first and interim Director of the Office for Veterans Affairs in the Cabinet Office. He left the OVA in April 2021 to become the Government’s first Independent Veterans Advisor which he did for just under 3 years, leaving in January 2024. He is now the CEO at The Royal Hospital Chelsea.

“Every year I am amazed by the extraordinary work done by members of the Armed Forces Community and support organisations across the UK and I am delighted to be able to play a small part in recognising and celebrating their achievements.” 

Neil Jackson - SOA

Neil 'Jacko' Jackson

Director, Defence Relationship Management (MOD)

Jacko served as a senior Army officer completing operational tours around the world and postings in the UK MoD, Army Headquarters, the UN and NATO. He has since focussed commercially on executive level stakeholder management, refining customer service delivery models and business process outsourcing including as Operations Director for a complex recruiting programme in partnership with the MoD.  

He was appointed as the Director of DRM in 2019. DRM works with employers and organisations across the UK to develop mutually beneficial partnerships that support the Armed Forces community of Reservists, Service Leavers, Veterans, Cadet Force Adult Volunteers, the Cadet Movement, the Wounded, Injured & Sick and military spouses & partners. The Armed Forces Covenant and the Employer Recognition Scheme (delivered by DRM) are key to this partnership. Jacko was recently awarded Chartered Fellowship of the CIPD. 

“I support the Soldiering On Awards because they shine a light on people who deserve recognition for everything they do to support the Armed Forces community and I thank them all.” 

Sarah Atherton MP

Member of Parliament for Wrexham

Sarah was elected in 2019 as the first ever Conservative MP for Wrexham, and the first Conservative woman to represent a Welsh constituency. Sarah sits on the Defence Select Committee and was previously the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Wales Office and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Government Equalities Office.

Before entering politics, Sarah served in the Intelligence Corps, then became a nurse and a social worker before starting her own micro-brewery business and becoming a community councillor. As the only sitting female MP with Regular military background, Sarah has an interest in women in the Armed Forces and female veterans. Sarah led the Defence Select Committee’s inquiry into the experiences of women in the military, from recruitment to civilian life which reported in July 2021.

She is also the patron of UK Veterans charity Forward Assist, which includes Salute Her, the only tri-service female veterans charity in the UK. In addition, she is the Parliamentary Patron for Conservative Friends of the Armed Forces.

“The Soldiering On Awards are an excellent opportunity to recognise the selfless commitment and devotion of our Armed Forces community. It is a privilege to witness the worthy nominees and hear of the incredible achievements of our military community, veterans and their families.”

Prof Matt Fossey FRSA

Professor of Public Services Research at Anglia Ruskin University

Matt founded the Veterans and Families Institute at ARU in 2015, and has grown the Institute’s status and reputation, including the 2022 launch of the Centre for Military Women’s Research. With 15 staff, over 120 publications and £7 million in research income, the VFI is recognised as an international leader for social research with the military, veterans and their families.

Matt was co-chair of the NATO military sexual violence research panel, and is an advisor to the MOD, NHS, Office for Students and OVA. He is also a member of the international working group considering wellbeing in the military and veteran’s communities. He is currently co-Chair of the NATO exploratory team looking at human participation in research.

Matt has recently led a team to win over £11m of Research England funding to set up a new Centre for Equalities in Uniformed Public Services.

“Matt is thrilled to be involved in the judging process for these prestigious awards. Recognising and demonstrating impact across the different categories is extremely important.”

Brig K R Harris CBE

Founding Chair of the Army Multicultural Network | Director, Land Command and Staff College

Brigadier Karl Harris was commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1994. He’s commanded at troop, sub-unit and unit levels within 26th Regiment Royal Artillery, and deployed in operational roles to Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and United States Central Command. Most recently, he deployed as Deputy Commanding General of the Global Counter-Daesh Coalition’s Combined Joint Task Force, for which he was awarded the United States Legion of Merit.

On the staff he’s fulfilled a range of roles at formation level, in Joint Warfare, and two tours in the UK’s Permanent Joint Headquarters J3 Operations Division. 

Away from his principal roles, Brigadier Harris is extremely proud to have set up and led the British Army’s Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Network (now the Army Multicultural Network) during 2015-2021, a voluntary enterprise endeavouring to inform, inspire and empower British Army personnel, the chain of command and allies, to help drive improvements in the Service and beyond. He was honoured to be appointed CBE in the Late HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 2022 Birthday Honours List, and continues to support public, private, and charitable sector initiatives promoting social change.

“It’s a humbling honour to be a member of the Soldiering On Awards Independent Judging Panel. The selflessness, courage, integrity and innumerable other qualities nominees demonstrate are astounding, and showcase the very best of all of us.”

Michelle Alston

Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust

Michelle Alston is Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, whose mission is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to make a successful transition to civilian life, through evidence generation and influencing activities that underpin policy making and practice.

She has two decades experience in analysis, policy, and communication in the public sector. She began her career working as a political press officer, followed by a parliamentary and policy role at the Ministry of Defence, and has worked in policy, quality assurance and administration roles in higher education.  She is the former Policy & Research Director of the Army Families Federation, where she engaged with policy makers within the chain of command and Government to raise issues faced by Army families. 

She is a Cobseo Clore Social Fellow 2019, trustee of the Lloyds Patriotic Fund and former trustee of SSAFA. Michelle understands first-hand the challenges and benefits of military life, as her husband is a currently serving Army officer.

GSM A J 'Vern' Stokes OBE MVO DL

GSM of London District & Organiser of State Ceremonial

Born in Shropshire, Vern enlisted into the Coldstream Guards at 16 in 1988. He  completed tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, trained on the Canadian plains, in the African bush, Central American jungle and throughout Europe, and instructed at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of 1st Bn Coldstream Guards in 2010 and the Academy Sergeant Major at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2012, Vern commissioned to Captain which he has currently deferred and since promoted to Major. He joined the Headquarters in Horse Guards, London in 2014. He is responsible for the planning and delivery of State Ceremonial events.

He was appointed Member of the Royal Victorian Order in the special Demise Honours List 2021 for the funeral of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh during the pandemic. He was a lead planner and deliverer for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II state funeral and His Majesty The King’s Coronation.

Vern was appointed OBE in the first King’s Birthday Honours list, and subsequently Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Shropshire in April 2024.

“I am delighted to volunteer for the Soldiering On Awards Independent Judging Panel. I haven’t done this before so I am excited to read the nominations from our exceptional Armed Forces community.” 

WO1 Paul Carney

Army Sergeant Major

WO1 Carney joined the Army in January 1997 as a combat engineer and electrician in the Royal Engineers. He has exercised around the world and operated in Macedonia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.  

WO1 Carney’s Junior and Senior Non-Commissioned Officer roles were spread between close support armoured engineering and general support engineering. As a Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor, he taught Troop Commanders and Sergeants Combat Engineering specialising on Demolitions and Bridging at the Royal Engineer Warfare Wing. He was the Squadron Sergeant Major of 20 Field Squadron, 36 Engineer Regiment as it transitioned to a Route Proving and Clearance role.  

After serving as Regimental Sergeant Major at 22 Engineer Regiment WO1 Carney has since served as 3rd (United Kingdom) Division Command Sergeant Major, the Field Army Command Sergeant Major and as a student on the Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land). In July 2021 he was appointed the 3rd British Army Sergeant Major. 

Brig (Retd) Robin Simpson

Professor of Military Primary Healthcare and Veterans Health, University of Chester

Brigadier (Retd) Robin Simpson left the Army in Jan 2020 after 35 years of service as a military General Practitioner (GP). His last appointment was as the Postgraduate Dean of the Defence Medical Services. He now has several roles including as a GP in Hampton in Arden. He is a the RAMC Colonel Commandant with a particular interest in supporting military medical research. 

Robin is the RCGP Veterans Champion responsible for making NHS GPs more aware of veteran’s health issues, promoting the Veterans Friendly GP Practice accreditation programme. He is the Professor of Military Primary Healthcare and Veterans Health University of Chester. 

“It is always a privilege to hear of the incredible achievements of the military community and the support they give to our veterans.” 

Julie Baker 

Head of Enterprise and Climate Engagement and Partnerships at NatWest Group

Michelle Alston is Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, whose mission is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to make a successful transition to civilian life, through evidence generation and influencing activities that underpin policy making and practice.

She has two decades experience in analysis, policy, and communication in the public sector. She began her career working as a political press officer, followed by a parliamentary and policy role at the Ministry of Defence, and has worked in policy, quality assurance and administration roles in higher education.  She is the former Policy & Research Director of the Army Families Federation, where she engaged with policy makers within the chain of command and Government to raise issues faced by Army families. 

She is a Cobseo Clore Social Fellow 2019, trustee of the Lloyds Patriotic Fund and former trustee of SSAFA. Michelle understands first-hand the challenges and benefits of military life, as her husband is a currently serving Army officer.

Graham Barker

Vice Lord Lieutenant of the Royal County Berkshire

Graham is Vice Lord Lieutenant of the Royal County Berkshire having been appointed in 2020. In this role he champions the Kings Award for Voluntary Service and chairs the county assessment panel. From 2018-19 he served as High Sheriff in the county with the themes of Community, Compassion and Culture; he particularly championed the employment of ex-offenders during his year in office.

He is currently Master of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars which promotes and supports the arts in the City of London and across the country. Graham interests include theatre and music and from 2022 he has chaired the National Theatre Foundation, which is the charity that sits alongside the National Theatre. At the start of 2024, he become Chair of the Newbury Spring Festival which is one of the most popular and successful music festivals in the south of England.

Graham followed a career in HR and worked in both the public and private sectors. His last HR role was as HR Director for Takeda Global R&D (Europe).

He is trustee of a number charities including the Inside Out Trust (which supports ex-offenders), the Berkshire Historic Churches Trust and is Vice President of the Berkshire Community Foundation. He is Honorary Colonel designate of the Royal County of Berkshire army cadets.

Martin Taylor

Co-Founder and Deputy CEO, Redwood Technologies Group

Martin Taylor is the Co-Founder and Deputy CEO of Redwood Technologies Group, a leading global communications technology provider. Martin’s responsibilities include the business’s fast-growing healthcare and public sector practice. 

A pioneer in cloud communications, Martin has been active in growing his business group around the world, since setting up its first company in the UK at the age of 22. Describing himself as a leading armchair military historian, Martin is a regular guest lecturer on strategy and entrepreneurship at the business school of King’s College London, his alma mater.  

“The Soldiering On Awards are an important part of recognising the commitment and dedication of our Armed Forces community, and I look forward to learning about the inspirational stories of all the nominees and celebrating their endeavours of strength and selflessness.” 

Category Judges

Craig Beaumont

Chief of External Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses

Craig looks after FSB’s policy, media & comms, public affairs and international teams and acts as media spokesperson and overseeing FSB’s relationships with No.10, Treasury, DBT, the Opposition, Parliament, and the other ‘B5’ UK major business groups – CBI, BCC, IoD and Make UK.  In his role at FSB he has been behind major policy developments in the last ten years such as creating and expanding the Employment Allowance, increasing the VAT threshold, cutting business rates and small business energy bills, shaping many of the COVID small business schemes, and working with X-Forces on employer incentives to take on veterans.  He created the UK’s first online LGBT+ business hub at fsb.org.uk/together, has just been appointed to the Industry and Parliament Trust’s executive committee and the employer advisory group to the Social Mobility Commission.  He set up FSB’s new Westminster offices, and has won the Francesca Kemp Award for contribution to the UK small business community and a UK Public Affairs Award for best campaign (tackling late payments after Carillion). He is featured in the top 100 OUTStanding LGBT+ business executives list and is a ‘Stambassador’ for STAMMA.  His previous roles include working in 10 Downing Street, the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and also in the tourism, rail and engineering sectors.

Maj (Retd) Sally Orange MBE

2020 and 2022 Winner

Following medical discharge after a 22 year career in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Physiotherapy Officer, Sally is now committed to breaking the stigma associated with mental illness.
She does this through taking on gruelling endurance challenges (dressed as different pieces of fruit!), to raise both awareness and funds for charity, to ensure others get the help they need much sooner than she did.  

Sally regularly speaks openly about her own lived experience on this topic and also champions young people and veterans through her role as a National ambassador for the Army Cadet Force, encouraging them to get active, motivated and live a fulfilling life which in turn has a significant positive impact on society.

“As a 2 x Soldiering On Award winner, I know first-hand the impact these prestigious awards can have on an individual. It’s an absolute privilege to continue to be involved with the talented military community and showcase all they achieve. I never cease to be amazed at the standard of nominations.”

Daniel Elser

Director of Grants and Quality at The Royal British Legion

Daniel is responsible for grant giving and social policy at the Royal British Legion, where he has worked since 2012. He sits on the Legion’s Campaigns and Research groups. Daniel has previously advised on funding initiatives including BBC Children in Need, Comic Relief and the LIBOR Veterans Accommodation Fund. He is particularly interested in social enterprise, youth engagement and community leadership.

“The SOA programme is an excellent opportunity for the public to learn about the inspirational and innovative work undertaken by our Armed Forces community.”

Caroline Cooke

Head of Policy, Forces in Mind Trust

From 2003 to 2016 Caroline worked for the Charity Commission as Head of Policy Engagement and Research.  Prior to that she worked at the disability charity Scope in a range of roles, including as acting Head of Public Policy and Research. More recently Caroline moved from the Charity Commission back into the charity sector where she worked at the British Geriatrics Society; the membership body for health professionals working with older people, to establish their policy and influencing function. Caroline has been Head of Policy at Forces in Mind Trust since 2019.  She holds an MSc in Voluntary Sector Organisation and Administration from the London School of Economics. 

“It is a privilege to be on the judging panel for the Working Together Award.   Forces in Mind Trust is delighted to be celebrating the successes of the nominees, achieved through their ability to build relationships and collaborate with others to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

Matt Corbidge

Director, Head of Growth Optimisation at Barclays

Laura Blair

Head of Ex-Forces Pathway at Centrica

Laura is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served in the Army for 12 years; roles included Head of Recruitment Operations London and Head of HR Operations 16 Air Assault Brigade. Since leaving the Army as a Major in 2012, Laura continued to contribute to the military community as COO for The Forces Employment Charity (RFEA) and most recently as Director of Employment for the Officers’ Association. She has a passion for education and development. Laura has operated as Head of Client Management for the global learning company Maynard Leigh. She is also a qualified History and Politics teacher, becoming Assistant Principal at Coopers School, Chislehurst.  

Laura joined Centrica in September 2022 as Head of Programme for their UK Ex-Forces Pathway.  The aim is to attract, engage and hire more Service Leavers, Veterans, Reservists and Military Spouses/Partners into rewarding careers across Centrica, from junior to senior hire. 

“Centrica are exceptionally proud to play a part in recognising the outstanding and humbling achievements of those within and across the Armed Forces community.” 

Angela Owen OBE

Angela Owen OBE, Founder Women in Defence UK

Angela’s Army career spanned 30 years and included tours in the UK, Germany and NI during the ‘Troubles’. One of the very first mothers to re-join the Army after the rules changed in the early 90s, Angela has always cared deeply about helping women progress with a real passion for gender equity. In 2011, Angela founded Women in Defence UK. Although best known for its annual Awards, now in their 9th year, it has recently launched its innovative Critical Mass work and continues to advocate change through its Challenge interviews with senior officers and MOD officials. Its ground-breaking cross-defence sector mentoring programme is in its fourth year and the group continues to collaborate with the MOD and industry on the Women in Defence Charter. Angela recently reprised her early (Commonwealth Games) athletics career and enjoys sprinting in Masters’ competitions albeit very slowly. She was appointed OBE in the New Years’ Honours List 2021 for her services to women who work in the Defence Sector and was selected to join the Northern Power Women’s Power List in 2024. An exceptionally proud mother of a son and daughter, she is now an equally proud grandmother of two glorious granddaughters!

Adrian Peters

Career Transition Partnership (CTP) Operations Director

Adrian has worked with Right Management since 2019 and is responsible for all operational aspects of the CTP support to over 13,000 Service leavers per year.

Adrian’s background is operational delivery, underpinned by data analysis to be able to drive continuous improvement and empower staff at all levels. He leads the CTP’s Senior Management Team overseeing the delivery of all aspects of the CTP in accordance with MOD policy and contractual conditions.  

Adrian served in the Army for 18 years and, since leaving, has worked in the employment arena.  Adrian led a charitable consortium that delivered the first employment pathway for Early Service Leavers and subsequently created and delivered the Recovery Career Services, a partnership between the MoD, Service Charities and Right Management, to deliver the first bespoke employment service for the most seriously Wounded, Injured & Sick Service Personnel.   

“Right Management is delighted to able to support an award and to be part of an event to celebrate all that is good about the Armed Forces community.” 

Sarah Woodward

Commercial & Marketing Manager at Pets At Home

Sarah has over 20 years’ experience marketing products and services in FMCG, Retail and Healthcare sectors. She joined Pets at Home in 2014, helping to develop the newly formed pet loyalty scheme – The VIP Club. Sarah understands the power of pets and the positive impact pet relationship can have on people. Pets are a valued member of the family. 

Pets at Home are currently the longest standing corporate partner of the Soldiering on Awards – a position they hold with great pride. 

“The Soldiering on Awards are true recognition of resilience, community and positivity. I am very proud to be associated with the awards and to be invited to the judging panel is an absolute privilege.” 

Mark Miller

Business Development Director – UK Defence, GKN Aerospace

Mark is the UK Business Development Director for GKN Aerospace, responsible for the market growth strategy and capability investment in Defence. Prior to this, he was the Vice President for UK Industry with Rolls-Royce Defence.

Mark served in the Army, as an engineer in REME, in many regions and conflict areas. He had full career from private soldier to commissioned officer.

“The awards recognise entrepreneurs who follow their dream of business ownership on leaving the Armed Forces, some in face of adversity. They are an incredible advertisement for the adaptability and resilience of the community and I am proud to be associated with them.”

Gina Allsop

Inspiration Award Winner 2022

Gina Allsop is a former Royal Signals Soldier, being deployed to many operations during her service. She won the Inspiration Award 2022 for her charity and volunteering work for military, youth and animal charities. 

Gina is a fundraiser and motivational public speaker at charity events for SSAFA, Sporting Force and other organisations.  She has volunteered as an adult instructor for the Army Cadet Force since 2013, teaches for Animal Aid in schools and volunteers as a Marine Mammal medic for British Driver Marine Life Rescue.  

Passionate about helping those suffering from mental health having her own struggles in the past, she is now an ambassador for End Suicide. Gina has set up and funded an art foundation for cancer patients in memory of her brother. She wrote a poetry book for charity that highlights the service of our military and is a conduit for mental wellbeing. Gina is an an ambassador for Woodys Lodge, The V Word and The Purple Warriors, a veterans’ Dragon Boat Team that brings veterans together in sport as a lifeline to members.

“Winning a Soldiering On Award meant the world to me and being asked to come back as a judge is a true honour and I am humbled to now be part of this important journey for the nominees. I look forward to reading all the inspirational nominations.”  

Tony Blaney

Senior National Account Manager, Defence Relationship Management (MOD)

After a Navy Reserve career was cut short, Tony embraced a new role as a Royal Marines Cadet Force Adult Volunteer. Over 11 years, he rose to Troop Commander for seven London units, mentoring new Commanding Officers. Passionate about the social economic mobility and equity of opportunity a uniformed life offers, he champions the Armed Forces Community, earning recognition as the first RM CFAV appointed as Aid-de-Camp to the Lord Mayor of London.

As the Senior National Account Manager at Defence Relationship Management (DRM) the Employer Engagement arm of the MoD, Tony has managed three of the six strategic portfolios, currently managing the Financial and Professional Services sector engagement with Defence, as well as a team of six National Account Managers, dabbling in process and policy where required and hosting season three of the Being Forces Friendly podcast.

Prior to joining DRM, Tony spent 15 years in HR, leadership training & talent development roles within tech & manufacturing. 

“One thing the Military community is great at, is the concept of the ‘team mind-set’. It’s always ‘We achieved this’ or ‘We need to’ that. This does result in a lack of individual recognition. The Soldiering on Awards is a unique opportunity for us all to shine a collective light on the individual(s) who are going that extra mile, achieving great things and most importantly, inspiring others to achieve even greater things.”

Rosie Gibbons

Regional Fundraiser Central, North West and Wales at Combat Stress

With two decades in fundraising, including 14 years in military charities including Combat Stress and the RAF Benevolent Fund, Rosie’s focus has primarily centred on regional community fundraising. Inspired by the remarkable commitment of supporters and volunteers, Rosie is passionate in her belief that being able to support them in the best way possible is key to the success of any charity. In both 2022 and 2023, Combat Stress volunteers earned SOA Lifetime Achievement Awards.



George Nisbet

Cybersecurity Specialist at Cisco

George Nisbet is a Cybersecurity Specialist at Cisco and a serving Army Reserve officer.

Cisco is a Silicon Valley-based IP networking and cybersecurity vendor with global reach. During his Cisco career, George has seen technical, commercial, and advisory roles across the Defence, Government, and Higher Education Sectors.

Alongside his Cisco work, George has been an active member of the Army Reserve since joining, aged 18. He has seen operational service advising on election security in Somalia, training host nation forces in Nigeria, and supporting the UK COVID-19 response. He will shortly deploy to Iraq on a second 6-month operational tour.

“The Soldiering On Awards shine light on the very best of us; on those who embody the values of service, selflessness, and sacrifice. I’m enormously humbled to be invited to join such an incredible panel of judges.”

Karen Porter

Head of Communications and Engagement at Landmarc

Karen is Head of Communications and Engagement at Landmarc Support Services, one of the founding corporate partners of X-Forces Enterprise (XFE), and has been a business captain with XFE since 2018. An avid supporter of the XFE community, Karen has supported numerous networking events and more recently been active in promoting the benefits of bringing veteran-owned businesses into the company’s supply chain. L

andmarc has been working as a dedicated partner to the Ministry of Defence for nearly two decades, providing a range of specialist support services that enable our Armed Forces to live, work and train on the UK Defence Training Estate. Over a quarter of its employees are veterans, reservists or their families, instilling a sense of pride and passion in the company’s role in enabling our Armed Forces to deploy on frontline operations and return home safely. 

“Having been involved with the Soldiering On Awards for a number of years now, it’s a real privilege to join the judging panel this year. Landmarc’s responsibility as a partner to the Armed Forces extends across all our activities, so this opportunity to help champion the successes of our wider military communities is hugely inspiring and rewarding.” 

Karen Tracey

Director, Dunelm Leaders

Karen is a RAF Veteran, Leadership Specialist and founder of her Executive Learning Practice, Dunelm Leaders, as well as the X-Forces Enterprise Ambassador for the West Midlands.

Her business offers Leadership coaching and development for senior leaders, specifically designed to develop high growth businesses. Karen specialises in  leadership development for CEOs, Directors and senior Executives who are focusing on developing their personal leadership brand and capability.

Karen is also Chair of two CEO Peer Groups for entrepreneurs in the UK for the Women Presidents’ Organisation (WPO) one in London and one in Birmingham. WPO is a peer learning network for women owned multi million-dollar companies.

In 2017, Karen was awarded the Adrienne Hall Award for Breaking Down Barriers from the WPO and was joint winner of the President’s Award in 2020. She is the Honorary Consul to Latvia for the West Midlands and a business board member of the Women in Enterprise All Party Parliamentary group where she leads the work stream for Business Support, Coaching and Mentoring.

“The Soldiering On Awards is an amazing platform to showcase the bravery and achievements of Veterans. This is something we should continue to do in order to support those who have served their country in so many ways.”

Douglas Badham

Partner, Curzon Consulting

Doug has over 25 years’ international business consulting experience across the Financial Services, Communications & Technology, and Healthcare industries.  His expertise includes business strategy development, transformation design and delivery, operating model, sales growth, and customer experience optimisation.  He leads Curzon Consulting’s Financial Services practice, supporting banking, insurance and wealth management clients at a time of enormous disruption and change in the sector.  Curzon is an award-winning strategy and transformation consulting firm, and Doug and the team have partnered with X-Forces on a pro bono basis since 2017 in an ongoing advisory role to help steer and optimise their organisational growth.    

“I am an ardent supporter – these awards shine a light on inspirational stories of immense challenges overcome, and stunning personal and business achievements.” 

Lisa Marr

Global Head of Security Education, Culture and Mindset at Barclays

Lisa Marr is the Director globally responsible for Security Awareness, Behaviour, Culture and reducing the human risk for Barclays. 

Prior to this role she was employed by Barclays to run the Veterans’ Employment Transition Support Programme, which was the largest Veterans programme in the country. 

Serving 18 years in both the British Army and NZDF with transport units, training establishments, staff appointments and finally Squadron Command. During her career in the Army, she deployed on operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. 

Before finally leaving the uniform behind in 2019, she served a further 5 years in an Employer Engagement role for 4 Brigade HQ. In 2020 Lisa’s work with the military community was recognised winning one of the ‘We Are the City’ Rising Star Awards which highlights female talent in the UK. 

“I am genuinely delighted to be one of the judges for the Soldiering on Awards. These awards are a fantastic way to recognise publicly those members of our military community who go above and beyond to help others.” 

Louise Edwards

Director of Business Development at Reed in Partnership

Louise has 25 years’ experience in public sector service delivery, specialising in procurement and tendering. She has worked for Reed in Partnership for over a decade, during which time she has led successful growth projects across Employability, Health and Assessment services. Louise was Director of Strategic Relationships before her appointment to the Board as Business Development Director in 2018.

Prior to working at Reed in Partnership, Louise spent 15 years working as a consultant to the public sector, with roles at Coffey International and Greater London Enterprise. Louise has a Masters in Regional and Urban Planning at the London School of Economics and a degree in Geography with Social Sciences from the University of Sussex.

Darren Elsey

Regional Operations Manager North for Landmarc

Darren has been with Landmarc since Nov 2021, developing the role and outputs to support current and future contract transition.

Prior to this Darren had an extremely successful 37 year military career; he joined the Army in Sep 83 as Junior Leader with the Junior Infantry Training Battalion in Shorncliffe where he joined the Queens Regiment, on successfully completing a varied and demanding soldiers career he was commissioned into The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. Darren served in a multitude of operational theatres and roles, highlights include conducting NEO operations in the Congo, serving in Iraq during OP TELIC 4 and being part of the team that closed MOB LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan in 2014. Darren’s career culminated 2021 after completing his final appointment in the rank of Lt Col at the Land Warfare Centre.

“People are everything, without them you achieve nothing.”

Alexandra Alun-Jones

Grants and Operations Officer at Forces in Mind Trust

Alexandra joined Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) in 2022 as the Grants and Operations Officer having previously worked in the supply chain assurance sector in an operations and reporting role. With both her parents serving in the Armed Forces, Alexandra recognises some of the unique challenges faced by military families when transitioning and aims to use her first-hand experience as a military child to aid the delivery of programmes that will benefit the Armed Forces community through her role at FiMT. Alexandra holds a Masters degree in International Relations from the University of Melbourne.

“The Soldiering On Awards is an excellent opportunity to showcase and recognise the brilliant work of the Armed Forces community. I feel both excited and grateful to join this year’s judging panel alongside so many esteemed individuals for the Working Together Award, which FiMT is gladly able to sponsor and that celebrates the efforts of those working collaboratively.”

Duncan Bruce OBE

Vice President Customer Experience Global Strategic Clients Group at Oracle

Duncan has recently retired after a 44 year career in business and the military.  

Graduating from Sandhurst in 1980, Duncan was commissioned into The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.  His military career included commanding an Infantry Company on operations in Bosnia, an Armoured Infantry Battalion in Iraq and as Chief of Staff of the United Nations military operation in Sierra Leone. He completed his Masters in International Relations at King’s College London in 2001. He was awarded an MBE in 1999 and subsequently an OBE in 2004, both for leadership on operations. 

In business, Duncan spent the last the last 17 years working for Oracle in various roles, including Global Programme Director, Regional Head of Support Services for UK, Ireland and Israel and lastly as Global Vice President, Customer Experience. While on the Oracle UK Board he was instrumental in promoting the role of UK Veterans and initiated the Company’s commitment to the Corporate Military Covenant, started annual sponsorship for Help for Heroes and most relevantly began the Company’s partnership with the Soldiering On Awards. 

“I am delighted and honoured to be a category judge and to continue my engagement with these amazing awards, recognising the stunning achievements of so many who support of the Armed Forces Community.”

David Smith

RAF Veteran and Business Owner

David is the Owner and Head Coach of CrossFit Spitfire based in Norwich.
Having established his startup business in 2016 with the assistance of X-Forces Enterprise and funding provided by the Start Up Loans company, the business has grown rapidly and seen phenomenal success both within this local community and as a brand across the UK and European fitness community.
David served as a Commissioned Officer in the Royal Air Force, serving across the UK and abroad, including Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick in 2005-2006.  He received the ‘Directors’ Special Award’ at the Soldiering On Awards 2018 for the success of Spitfire and mentoring support to the Veteran Community, business start ups, planning, digital marketing and consultancy. 
“Judging the SOA is a huge privilege, it’s also one of the hardest things to do!  There are so many amazing, inspirational and deserved nominees it makes it almost impossible, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”
Sheena Valentina

Sheena Valentina

RAF Veteran and Business Owner

Sheena is a RAF Veteran, small business owner and co-owner of CrossFit Spitfire (previous SOA Award winner) based in Norwich.

Sheena has championed fitness and outreach programs within her community through her kids and teens fitness business since 2018, supporting a number of charity initiatives including promoting the inclusivity and participation of females in sport and fitness.

Sheena served in the RAF on a number of tours both on Operation Telic, and across the UK.  A qualified Nutrition specialist and fitness coach, Sheena works with a wide range of clients both remotely and in person, specialising in pre and post natal conditioning, and health mentoring.

A keen supporter of XFE, Sheena has supported a number of local and regional veteran networking events, and is thrilled to contribute as a judge for the Soldering On Awards.

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