The Cadet Experience

Alexander Odeneal Surrey Army Cadet Force

My name is Alexander, and I’ve been an Army Cadet for four and a half years. I did a presentation recently on ‘The Cadet Experience’, and to talk about the Army Cadet Force (ACF) and the opportunities available. The ACF develops young people with its age-related syllabus, which is both mentally and physically appropriate for the cadets learning each level.

There are many opportunities to get away from home as a cadet. Firstly there are field training exercises, known as an ‘FTX’. These are weekends that are run once or twice a year which consist of Fieldcraft only, and there is one long exercise over the whole weekend that almost every cadet is involved in, (though some of the most junior cadets will do something less advanced!) These exercises are a fantastic way to encourage teamwork and self-reliance together, along with discipline. Other weekend camps are held to practice and develop some of the skills developed at detachment level; these include practicing drill, going over aspects of fieldcraft, skill at arms and shooting, navigation skills and sports (known as physical training, or PT).

Lord Lt's Cadet of the Year

Lord Lt’s Cadet of the Year

Annual camp is a two week camp held at a different location each year for the whole county. It costs only £60 (previously £55) which is great value for money (and certainly cheaper than keeping me at home). These are the main event of the cadet calendar, and the best place to develop independence and learn to look after oneself. It also encourages teamwork among cadets in the same room and star levels, and leadership among the more senior cadets.  These also develop a cadet’s skills further, some of which are very transferrable into civilian life and later on part-time jobs. (The most important of these, I feel, are navigation, first aid, and probably the discipline and teamwork developed from all the skills mentioned above).

Passing 4 Star with Cadre

Passing 4 Star with Cadre

Adventure training is a really big thing in Surrey ACF. There are many overseas trips and plenty of opportunities a bit more locally. There are trips to Australia, Belgium, France (though these excursions are more like battlefield tours), Germany for parachuting with the regular Army, and Egypt for scuba diving in the Red Sea. Some courses for things like kayaking and rock climbing are run in both the Lake District and Capel Curig, and all can lead to qualifications.

Some of the other qualifications available in the ACF include studying for a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Public Services, and in Music. (Skills in music are developed through the Corps of Drums and Band detachments; the ability to play an instrument and read music is taught entirely from scratch, which I think is a fairly impressive feat!) One can also achieve the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award from Bronze level to Gold, and of course the first aid qualifications are recognised by civilian employers. These qualifications all help cadets to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

I hope this gives you a good insight into the kind of experience to expect as a cadet!

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