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The history of the Cadet Forces is intwined with the history of military necessity and it was at times of need that the seeds were sown for the Army Cadet Force, the Combined Cadet Force and the Officer Training Corps. The Army Cadets in a more modern format was, however, created by Miss Octavia Hill who realised there was a need to provide disciplined training for underprivileged boys in London. The Army Cadet's sister organisation the Combined Cadet Force offers similar training to the Army Cadets but is based in schools, quite often in private schools, whereas Army Cadet units are based outwith schools and open to any children between the ages of 12 to 18 and 9 months.
My first introduction to the Army Cadet Force was when I was an Officer Cadet in the Officer Training Corps. and was asked to attend an Army Cadet camp as additional help. I enjoyed it so much that I later joined up as an adult instructor and so in this review I'm going to give a little insight into the Army Cadets and what it offers both adults and children.
What a Cadet Experiences in the Army Cadet Force:
A cadet can join as long as they are aged 12 and usually they'll be expected to be attending high school. When they pop along to their local detachment, the detachment commander will probably invite them in for a chat and explain what is involved in the cadets. If they decide that it's something they'd like to try, they'll be given an application form home for them for their parents to fill in and will be asked to bring along photo ID of some form such as a passport or a Young Scots Card. Once a cadet has attended for a few weeks and is sure they enjoy it, the paper work will then be forwarded on and the parents or guardians will be asked for a small uniform deposit to be paid. Most of this deposit will be returned when the cadet leaves and hands back in his uniform but some of it is kept to cover the cost of certain pieces of uniform that they cadet gets to keep (such as T-shirts) but this will all be explained to the parent at the time of their child's sign up. All the child's military kit will be supplied except their boots which the parents will need to invest in. Some units will offer unit sports kit with the badge of the unit on it and sometimes the unit requires this to be bought, at other units it is entirely optional but there is generally an interest in keeping the costs as low as possible for parents.
Once in, a cadet will begin training immediately. Again, all units are different: some train once a week, some twice, some even three evenings a week. Most units have a specific schedule where they will train in military skills one evening a week and sports on another evening a week. The cadets run on a 'Star' System with specific training aims for each star grading. Cadets join as recruits and work towards their Basic badge (a plain blue star). On achieving this they can them aim for their 1 star badge, 2 star badge, 3 star badge, 4 star badge and the most exemplary cadets can advance towards their master cadet award.
Training is progressive and includes a wide range of skills such as skill at arms; first aid; fieldcraft; drill; fitness and map and compass. There will be frequent weekend camps that cadets can attend and usually a 4 day long Easter camp and a summer camp that usually lasts a fortnight. Camps give the cadets an opportunity to try things that are a bit more unusual and that they can't try at their units such as rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, caving and abseiling. Camps will usually require a modest meal contribution from the parents but it is low. This year my battalion only charged £45 for cadets to attend the fortnight long summer camp.
Cadets can also be promoted to cadet Non Commissioned Officer roles (Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, Colour/Staff Sergeant and one cadet in the battalion will be promoted to the role of cadet Regimental Sergeant Major). Cadet NCOs will be given a degree of responsibility for teaching the junior cadets, making sure cadet dorms are kept clean and tidy on camps and general other tasks.
Cadets will also get the chance to go on JCICs and SCICs (Junior Cadet Instructors Cadre and Senior Cadet Instructors Cadre) where their leadership and instruction skills will be developed and will sometimes get the chance to go on Land Command courses. There are also opportunities for them to complete Cadet adventurous training courses in skills such as rock climbing, mountain climbing and kayaking.
Cadets will also be sent on Junior First Aid courses and later, Adult First Aid courses as part of their star training and can also aim to achieve shooting badges on the three rifles that the cadets regularly fire. Various other opportunities also present themselves such as expeditions, parades, charity collection events and so on.
Encouragement is also given for civilian qualifications to be obtained and the Duke of Edinburgh award at all three levels (bronze, silver and gold) is pursued by most cadets. There is also an opportunity for cadets to pursue a BTEC qualification through their participation in the Cadet Force.
All in all, the opportunities are endless and the change in cadets is immense. Cadets can stay in until they are 18 and 9 months and many do stay in until this stage so there is a real development from the 12 year old child who joins to the young adult who leaves at almost 19. Most detachments are able to accept both males and females now, also.
The Experience for Adults
I registered my interest through the Army Cadet website and was referred onto my battalion who sent me out an application form. A short, informal interview followed at the headquarters although I was already known by the battalion as I'd helped them out at a summer camp as a member of the Officer Training Corps. so perhaps this was why my interview was relatively short and informal. I was then given medical forms and asked to contact my doctor for a medical. Don't worry if you are not entirely healthy or fit as there are categories on the medical form for your doctor to pick ranging from you being totally fit and healthy to run around after kids, to you being healthy and relatively fit and able to participate in most cadet activities, to limited health and fitness and finally to totally unfit for service. They Cadet Forces are not looking for soldiers but adult youth workers. Fitness is obviously an asset, as there are a lot of sports and physical activities involved in the cadets, but a good leader who is dedicated and able to teach lessons and organise a unit is more important than a fit superhero. Criminal record checks also need to be conducted for all adult volunteers.
An adult can serve as a Civilian Assistant until their criminal checks and medical results are through. This means that they can attend their unit but can't be left alone with the cadets, can't wear uniform, look through restricted military pamphlets, handle the rifles and are not entitled to any pay but this period is transitory and short and you'll soon be registered as a PI (potential instructor).
As a PI, you'll be under the watchful eye of your detachment commander who should assist you in making sure you are trained to teach within your department and should help you pick up the military skills you need if you are coming in from a Civilian background. Most battalions also have battalion level training for PIs (usually a few weekends away learning/revising military skills; learning about child protection and data protection issues and assessing your ability to teach). When your battalion and detachment commander are satisfied, you'll be sent for a week long course called the AITC (Adult instructor training course). This will focus mainly on ensuring you are comfortable with skill at arms, map and compass, drill and fieldcraft and will test your teaching skills. It will also include a short fieldcraft exercise. Once you have completed this, you will be a Sergeant Instructor within your battalion.
There is further courses that you should complete at various intervals during your time in the Cadet Force such as the instructors' course at Frimley Park in Surrey and the King George VI Leadership course. There are also important and varied courses in specific skills such as running ranges; mountain biking; assault course operation etc. and the more you can do, the more useful you are to your battalion and company but, of course, these are also time consuming.
Again, there are plenty of opportunities to expand your CV and gain useful qualifications for adults as well as for cadets but being a volunteer also requires a huge amount of dedication. Expect to give up two evenings a week and roughly on average one weekend a month for the cadets (some months you'll not be out with your cadets at the weekends at all but other weekends you'll be out every weekend). Travel expenses to your unit over 3 miles are paid and there is limited payment for some activies (volunteers do not get paid for the evenings that they run drill nights but do get paid for some weekend camps and will almost certainly be paid in full for summer camps). Wages are not particularly high and no volunteer should or does join up for the money but it is a nice bonus for all the work you put in when you do get a little extra in your bank.
The cadets can be tiring and time consuming but can also be hugely rewarding if you put in the time and commitment and I do recommend it to anyone considering it.
ArmyCadetForce.com is the longest servering online website for Army Cadets on the internet we've been serving the Army Cadet Force for over ten years!! Daily 'operations' and 'management' is conducted by qualified and experienced members of the ACF - everyone is represented (we've Recruits to Colonels) and everyone, regardless of rank or experience is welcome to participate. Membership is 100% free - regardless of being a member of the ACF or not, in fact we have many CCF (Combined Cadet Force, ATC (Air Training Corp, SCC (Sea Cadets Corp) and overseas members!