FORMER paratrooper Tony McCluskey, from Hawick, is going to attempt to turn the clock back 20 years and repeat the gruelling 10-mile run endured by new recruits hoping to be picked for the famous British airborne regiment, but this time its all in the name of charity, writes Mark Entwistle.
But it is a charity with a special significance for former paras such as Tony, now a police officer serving in Dumfries and Galloway.
The Mark Wright Project was set up in memory of a young paratrooper killed in Afghanistan in 2006 while trying to save wounded comrades.
The project actively supports ex-service personnel and their families coping with the psychological traumas caused by war. Additionally, ex-service personnel and their families have access to a wide range of information, support and advice services, complementary therapies, gym facilities and an outdoor activity programme.
Tony, who is originally from Edinburgh but now lives in Hawick with his family, currently also serves in Edinburgh with the Territorial Army, as a member of a Royal Military Police unit.
However, for 15 years he served with the Parachute Regiment’s TA battalion – 15 Para – followed by a stint with its successor, 4 Para.
On September 11, he and two colleagues, Ian Dawes and Craig McKay, will attempt the legendary P Company selection test, running 10 miles cross country in combat gear, including army issue boots and carrying a 35lb Bergen backpack.
The Parachute Regiment is staging the course, alongside another 10-mile run, for anyone interested in seeing if they are as fit as the soldiers in one of the British Army’s most elite units.
Some 4,000 places have been made available for those wanting to take part, with many, like Tony and his friends, doing it for charity.
Tony explained: “I’m doing this for a charity based in Dalketih called the Mark Wright Project. Mark was awarded a posthumous George Cross for his gallantry in Afghanisation some years back for selflessly putting his men before himself when his section chanced upon a minefield in Kajaki. I myself used to serve in Mark’s regiment – the Parachute Regiment. I am also a serving police officer and along with two colleagues, we want to raise money for the charity Mark’s parents set up in his name to provide support and engagement with active veterans in central and south of Scotland.
“We were inspired by recent stories that the charity has had to consider selling Mark’s George Cross to raise funds for its valuable work and we thought that was not right.”
Tony has set himself a rigorous training schedule and a number of people in the Hawick area will now have witnessed him pounding his way up and down local roads and hills, in military issue kit, including his Bergen pack.
“I’m now 38 and its been nearly 20 years since I did the P Company run for real. The last time I was 19, so it will be tough, but I’m confident of making it.
“I was keen to do something for the charity that was fitness-related and this event, being organised by the Paras, seemed the ideal way, especially as it’s for the charity set up in Mark Wright’s memory.”
Anyone wishing to sponsor Tony, should log on to the website at www.justgiving.com/mccluskey-anthony