Guest Post Day 5 – Something For The Future…
It’s already Day Five of my Guest Post series, and after some fantastic, deep and thoughtful posts, I’ve gone for something a little lighter, but no less important, today.
Here’s a blog post by Luke Pepperell who, as a Civilian Instructor, has written a great introduction piece all about the Air Cadets.
So, responding to an advert by RAFairman for “guest-bloggers”, I thought I’d try a blog about something that in some respects is similar to what he does, but in others is very, very different.
I’m an adult staff member in the Air Cadets; the RAF’s answer to the Army Cadet Force. There are around 1000 squadrons in the UK (including some overseas squadrons in places like Cyprus and Germany). They’re all run by volunteers, either ex-cadets themselves, people who have an interest in aviation or sometimes parents get involved too. Technically, we are a part of the RAF, and all the officers are real members of the RAF (but they can’t be called up to fight!).
We provided training and fun activities for 13-20 year olds that join our squadrons, think Scouts but more military and for older kids! Most of our “recruits” join us because they want a career in the RAF, but officially we aren’t a recruiting tool for them, it’s just a happy coincidence that a large percent of the current RAF are ex-cadets!
Generally, we meet twice a week on weekday evenings for a “parade night”, in which it’s down to the squadrons to choose what they do. We’re nearly always out and about at the weekend though, doing fun activities like the canoeing we have planned for this Sunday or it could be something like fundraising for our squadron, like we did last weekend at the Nation Rifle Association’s home at Bisley.
I shouldn’t forget out sister organisation here too, the Combined Cadet Force RAF (CCF(RAF)). These operate from schools, but fall under the same organisation as the Air Training Corps (ATC) and become the Air Cadet Organisation (ACO). As you can see, we must be quasi military, simply because of the amount of acronyms involved!
Personally, I’m what’s called a CI, a civilian instructor. This means I don’t wear uniform and I can turn up when I want, teach or get involved and then go home until the next time. We make up the majority of adult staff in the organisation, and we can’t claim pay, unlike our NCO and Officer friends, who, because they fall under reserve forces, can claim up to 28 days per year, just like the TA.
So, that’s enough background, what do our cadets get out of it? Well, firstly, they can get qualifications, which are pretty varied. There’s the BTEC in Aviation studies, where you learn all about aircraft and flying, from how to navigate to how a jet engine works. This is currently worth 2 GCSEs at A*-C. There’s the BTEC in Public Services, learning all about the forces, that’s worth 4 GCSEs at A*-C, and finally the BTEC in Music, again worth 4 GCSEs at A*-C. These are all great qualifications and really can help our cadets get into work or further education, but it’s not what we’re all about.
Our aims are to promote an interest in aviation and the RAF, provide training useful in service and civilian life and to foster the spirit of adventure, and develop qualities of leadership and good citizenship. How we do these really depends on what we have available. It takes a lot of hard work to create these opportunities for our cadets, there’s a lot of administration needed to actually run a squadron, and when you’ve just come home from work and have an hour to eat dinner, iron uniform and get changed into it and get to the squadron, it can be a big ask.
Nearly every weekend, we’re doing something, as I said earlier. We, as a squadron, are very lucky in the staff that we have. We have people that like shooting, people that like flying, people that like adventure training and sports, and we’re all very committed. Other squadrons aren’t like that at all, and can have as few as 3 members of staff to look after 30+ kids twice a week.
As I’ve already said, this weekend we’re going canoeing. In years gone by, we could have just turned up with a boat and got on with it. Now, and rightly so, things are much more stringent. We need risk assessments, have to make sure all the cadets have passed a basic swimming proficiency test, consent forms and the like, which all take time, but they’re to protect us as much as the cadet!
As for what we get out of it, well it’s as simple as seeing the kids faces when they achieve something they didn’t think they could. When they go flying for the first time, or manage to climb something they didn’t think they could. It sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth. An ex-cadet myself, I got so much out of the Corps I thought it was only fair I put something back in, and so once I hit 20 became a member of 211 (Newbury) Squadron.
If anyone is reading this and wants to know more about us, www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets is a good starting point, or ask any questions to me on Twitter at @lukepepperell. Hopefully it’s been interesting for those of you that have never heard of us, and if you’ve got kids between 13 and 20 I urge you to send them along to your nearest unit and see what stories they come home telling!
I was never an Air Cadet myself, but I have had a lot of contact with them as an organisation AND with the members of the individual Squadrons through working as an instructor at RAF Cosford, and I know how much the youngsters can get out of it.
If you spent time in the Air Cadets, and have a story to share, please post it below.
Come back tomorrow for another guest post…