A FORMER soldier who drove a tank through two bloody war zones has powered his way to a major award for his work as a front line carer for young people.

Mark Adams, 36, spent five years serving with the British Army before joining the staff at the Branas Isaf care centre in Llandrillo, near Corwen, in Denbighshire 12 years ago.

During his time in the service he drove Chieftain battle tanks during the bitter campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s and after leaving the army took on the challenge of helping to turn around the lives of teenagers with extreme behavioural difficulties, which he says can sometimes be difficult but is still very rewarding.

It is the “motivated and supportive” way he handles his role as a team leader at Branas Isaf that saw Mark shortlisted for the prestigious Wales Care Wards 2014.

The awards are in association with Care  Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.

At the glittering presentation ceremony in City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 24, Mark took a coveted gold in the Peter Clarke Award for the Promoting Excellence in Services for Children, sponsored by ACT Training.

Of his golden victory Mark said: “I was very surprised to actually win the award but it was really nice to be part of such a large and prestigious event at Cardiff City Hall.

“Going up the accept the award was quite daunting but it’s fantastic to be recognised for all the work I’ve put in over the years. The award is also very welcome recognition for the whole team at Branas Isaf.

“I was at the presentation evening with some of my senior managers and my wife Julie who gives me strong support back at home for the work I do.”

Mark, who lives with his wife Julie and their two young sons Marcus, five, and one-year-old Maximus in Oswestry, comes originally from east London where he spent his early years living mainly in the Stratford and East Ham areas.

In his late teens he signed up for the army, which meant five years of serving across the world, including war zones in Bosnia and Kosovo.

He said: “I spent five years with the Royal Engineers based in Germany. I served in various parts of the world and eventually became an armoured engineer which meant I drove Chieftain tanks carrying bridging equipment into action as part of a battle group.

“I was on peacekeeping duties in Bosnia and Kosovo during that time and in both those places I was mainly involved in mine clearance, disposing of the cluster bombs which had been dropped by our own forces so local people could move about freely.

“Just after I left the army I rang up a friend who was working at Branas Isaf and said I would like to have a job there. I was taken on and have been there on and off for the past dozen or so years.

“I started at the Llandrillo centre as a basic care worker and later moved on to a sister company called Branas Training where I worked as an NVQ assessor and internal verifier. About three or four years I returned to Branas Isaf as a front line carer.

“Although I’m basically still a carer I am now also a team leader. I work a shift pattern of two days on and four days off but on the two days I live in and am responsible for decision making for my team of eight or nine staff.

“Our role at Branas Isaf is to give day to day support to up to seven boys aged 12 to 18 with extreme behavioural difficulties. They all have complex needs and we try to help them get their lives back together by working with them often in a one to one situation.

“We try to support the young people as much as we can and also have some fun. I frequently take them on trips to places like the cinema and out in to the country. I’m a basic expedition leader and I supervise them on kayaking and canoeing trips such as the week-long one we’ve just had in the River Wye.

“I can be a quite difficult and stressful job but doing the work I do is rewarding and seems very natural to me.”

In nominating Mark for his award, Branas Isaf registered manager Kirsty Nelson said: “He is very much a focused individual who takes his role as a care worker very seriously. He is a motivated and supportive staff member who not only takes time out to develop new staff but also to support the more experienced team members.

“Within his role Mark promotes the young people to have a voice and encourages them to make healthy decisions about their future as well as providing a high standard of daily care and nurture.”

Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said there was a record number of nominations and the standard was extremely high.

He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

“We take our hats off to them.”