A former child drug dealer now Queen’s Guard Sergeant has set up a programme called ‘Defeat Don’t Repeat’ in the hope that it will prevent others from turning to crime.
Sergeant Rhys Rutledge began selling drugs at age 14. By 19, he was arrested and sentenced to sixteen months in prison.
After his release from prison, he quickly reverted to selling drugs, falling into what he felt was a never-ending cycle of crime.
However, after realising the emotional damage his actions were causing his family, Rhys from North Wales decided to join the British Army in 2009.
Since then, Rhys has become a successful Platoon Sergeant within the Welsh Guards, which has seen him deployed on multiple operations across the world, including guarding HM The Queen at the Royal Palaces in London.
At the launch, Rhys passionately explained his reason for taking this on. He said:
“I want to help troubled youngsters change their lives, by talking and teaching them valuable life skills like that I have learned since joining the Welsh Guards.
“My programme is designed to show youngsters who are thinking about taking up a life of drugs and crime, that they can be successful in life.
“I want them to achieve what I have and them to have a positive outlook on life.
“My course teaches them military training that creates a team bond similar to the Army leadership code.”
The opening launch of Defeat Don’t Repeat (DDR) saw 13 young children selected from two schools in London arrive at Longmoor Training Area.
Throughout the week, the children took part in specially designed military-related activities that aimed to promote teamwork and decision making, in turn instilling confidence, discipline and self-fulfilment.
Sessions included drill, physical training competitions, lifesaving first aid lessons, cam and concealment, night stalks, discussion groups, and weapon stands.
It was during a deployment last year in Afghanistan when Rhys came up with the idea to launch this programme. He said:
“I feel it is my responsibility to give something back to these people who deserve a second chance at life."
“My programme will steer individuals away from a life of crime and show there is more to life than spending time behind bars.”
The DDR programme has seen Rhys work closely with the prison services as well as London Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police.
In the future Rhys hopes this scheme can be rolled out nationwide so he can help as many children as possible who are involved in knife crime or drugs, focusing on prevention and capturing them before they get caught up with drugs or violence.
Rhys’ Platoon Commander, Second Lieutenant J Anscombe-Bell is thrilled with the work his Platoon Sergeant is doing. He said:
“Since enlisting, Rhys has made a career in a profession that has provided him with the structure and discipline he desperately needed.
“This dramatic transformation is an exceptional achievement and one that he and his loved ones are unequivocally proud of.
“Aside from his busy career, Sergeant Rutledge has passionately built the DDR concept by capitalising on his own personal experiences. The scheme was initially focused on the rehabilitation of convicts and ex-prisoners. However, the opportunities made available to him guided him towards preventative action, rather than finding a cure for those who have already committed a crime.
“Special thanks must also be given to WO2 Kavaz, the London District youth engagement liaison, who offered valuable assistance throughout the planning process and during the entire course.
“A particular highlight was seeing Sergeant Rutledge share his own personal experiences through a powerfully inspirational presentation.
“This allowed him to connect to each individual and show them what can be achieved in life, in spite of adversity.
“Sergeant Rutledge’s enthusiasm and determination to pursue and deliver his concept resulted in a hugely successful week, a consensus not only shared by the volunteers who facilitated it, but by those who attended the insight day and most importantly by the children for which the course was created.
“It was no surprise that at the end of the programme one individual came up to him privately and asked how he could join the Army.
“He has since received numerous messages of thanks and further interest from other participants interested in the enlistment process.
“Looking forward, Sergeant Rutledge appears to be at the start of a very exciting journey; he is already planning a second course, due to take place in April 2020.
“Longer term, the intent is still to pursue options for cure, concurrently to prevention, to try to find ways to allow individuals to enter training while still waiting for their rehabilitation periods to be spent. Watch this space, but for now, a huge congratulations to Sergeant Rutledge.”
Rhys will be delivering a presentation at the two London schools next month. He is also inviting the attendees to Combermere Barracks before Christmas so their progress can be followed up.