A child drug dealer who became a sergeant in the Army is now saving teenagers from gang life.
Sgt Rhys Rutledge is running a scheme to help youths turn their back on crime.
The 35-year-old was a cocaine addict who went to prison for dealing before turning his life around in the Army in 2009.
The Welsh Guards soldier’s five-day programme involves assault courses, marching drills and learning first aid skills.
Sgt Rutledge, inset, said: “Because I’m stood there in uniform, I give them the light at the end of the tunnel, that it is not all over.
“When I get asked, would you trust an ex-convict with a weapon system in the British Army, the answer to that is: yes, look at me. I’m a platoon sergeant, I’m in charge of 20-plus blokes. I’d like to think they look at me as a role model.”
Sgt Rutledge, who , came up with the idea for the project while sitting on his camp bed in Afghanistan, which reminded him of his old prison bed.
The Army-funded course was piloted at Longmoor Training Area, Hants.
He is now aiming to roll out the “Defeat Don’t Repeat” scheme across the country to save troubled teens.
He said: “I would say that 80% of the audience I deliver a briefing to in various prisons would give their right arm to be where I am now.”
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“Due to their minor mistake, enough to end them up behind bars, they realise that, yes, they have messed up but I feel that individuals just continue to get punished.”
The sergeant was praised yesterday by mind coach Alex Rowan who said: “Sergeant Rhys Rutledge is an inspiration.
“Wish there were more like him.
“Just think, this man is now one of the Queen’s foot guards. There’s hope.”
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