Armed forces commissioner named for Suffolk

A Suffolk man who rose to the rank of colonel in the army and who has served as a councillor for over two decades has been named as Suffolk’s first armed forces commissioner.

Rae Leighton, who is currently the county councillor for Blything, will be responsible for building a strong working relationship between Suffolk’s civilian and armed forces communities and leading bids to secure national funding for local projects.

The appointment comes less than a month after Suffolk’s long history of support for the armed forces was confirmed in writing and on the day a home coming parade was held in Ipswich for the 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment (The Vikings).

In October, community, voluntary and armed forces leaders came together in Ipswich to sign a landmark ‘community covenant’ which pledged mutual support and practical help for the serving personnel, veterans, their families and widow(er)s living and working in Suffolk.

The covenant is part of a £30 million national scheme, launched by the Ministry of Defence, to strengthen the bonds between the military and civilian communities.

The funding will be used to support projects across the UK, such as support to veterans, raising GP awareness of combat stress and raising public awareness of service family life and deployments overseas.

The commissioner will chair a community covenant board and will lead the work agreed as part of the covenant.

Colonel Rae Leighton said: “It’s a huge honour to be appointed the first armed forces commissioner for Suffolk.

“I am determined to make sure that we, as a county, implement the undertakings of mutual support and cooperation between the armed forces, their families and the veterans and the civil community that we so readily signed up to in Ipswich last month.

“At that ceremony, the enormous esteem in which the armed forces and their families are held by the people of Suffolk was clear to see.

“Similarly, the trust that the armed forces place in the civil authorities was very obvious.

“I see my role as implementing the integration of those values into tangible and mutual benefits to our society.

“It will take time, hopefully with some quick gains, but it will be a continuous process. We begin next month with the first meeting of a board to determine how we proceed.”

The first meeting of the Suffolk Armed Forces Community Covenant Board will be held at RAF Wattisham on December 5.

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (November 15) Echo.