MEMBERS of Blaenau Gwent Council and special guests all attended the General Offices in Ebbw Vale on Saturday for the official signing of Blaenau Gwent’s Armed Forces Community Covenant.

The Armed Forces Community Covenant is a statement of mutual support between civilian and local armed forces communities.

Despite the weather around 200 people, including Gwent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston, mayor of Blaenau Gwent Mostyn Lewis and Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith, turned out to see the firing of a battalion gun to signify the official launch of the Covenant.

As part of the launch Blaenau Gwent soldiers from Abertillery (211 battery) completed a 16-mile charity march for Penycwm Special School and Welfare for the family of soldiers of 104 Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Guests were also treated to a special performance by pupils from Willowtown Primary School.

Councillor Mike Bartlett, the Armed Forces Community Champion, told the Argus: “My eldest brother was in the navy, the next was in the RAF, the other was an officer in the merchant navy, I was in the army and my grandson was the youngest guardsman to take part in the royal wedding.

“That’s why I’m involved in the organisation of this event, because it is something I think is very important, and this marks the beginning of a lot of hard work for us to continue the good work.”

Captain Gareth Dibble, from 104 Regiment Royal Artillery which is based at Raglan Barracks in Newport said: “We started planning for this event in October and it’s great to see so many people here today. It’s from here the hard work will start, engaging with the community.”

Organisations including Tai Calon, GAVO, GwentPolice and Coleg Gwent all sent representatives to attend the special day for Blaenau Gwent.

Signing up to the Community Covenant offers a unique way for local authorities to honour the Armed Forces Covenant locally.

Blaenau Gwent was the 22nd local authority in Wales to sign, meaning every council in Wales has now signed up.

The Covenant aims to encourage local communities to support the Armed Forces community in their areas, nurture public understanding and awareness amongst the public of issues affecting the armed forces community, recognise and remember the sacrifices faced by the armed forces community, encourage activities which help to integrate the armed forces community into local life and to encourage the armed forces community to help and support the wider community.