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Army Cadet Force - helping young people succeed in life

Wiltshire’s Army Cadet Force (ACF) along with other Training Centres across the United Kingdom have recently reopened their facilities to young people following the relaxation of Coronavirus restrictions.

The youth organisation which was formed over 150 years ago welcomes anyone between 12 and 18 years of age and currently has over 30,000 Cadets.

Nationwide there are 1,600 local detachments which have more than nine thousand Cadet Force Adult Volunteers. The organisation is seen by many as an ideal platform to prepare young people for their future careers and life in society.

"The whole experience has helped boost my confidence, my self-discipline and my organisational skills." Cadet Morgan from C Company, Warminster Detachment.

Colonel Britt Haggerty, a Reservist for the past 33 years has been Commandant of Wiltshire ACF since 2019. She says the team encountered many challenges making sure that this years’ camp could go ahead:

“We had to abide by strict rules under the Youth Association guidelines and they were changing constantly. It meant we had to keep everyone in bubbles of six. But, although very testing, it has all been carried out in a safe manner.

"Other counties had to go for non-residential training but we were one of the few that has managed to have a full three-week camp. That pays testament to our teamwork and planning of which I am very proud.”

Each Cadet was aiming for one of five levels of the Army Proficiency Certificate. This is achieved by successfully completing training in core subjects: Drill and Turnout, Military Knowledge, Fieldcraft, Skills at Arms, shooting, Navigation, First Aid, Expedition and Adventure Training, Physical Training and Cadet in the Community.

"There was structure, they were having fun and it was well organised" 2nd Lieutenant Mathias

2nd Lieutenant Simon Mathias is an adult volunteer and was officer in charge of the recruit cadre camp. Five years ago, he had left one youth organisation and was looking for a new challenge. He said:

“My son was in the cadets and I went along to look at what they were doing and I thought it was great. There was structure, they were having fun and it was well organised and it fitted in with me and I could continue to work with young people.”

It has been difficult to maintain the momentum over the past year and a half, as Simon explained:

“The challenge during lockdown has been that the cadets have not been together as group doing what they would normally do such as field craft and drill. We did an awful lot of class work on Zoom but it’s not the same as ‘working with your mates’.

"At the beginning of this week, you could see that they were not quite working as a team but as the week went on, they began to do this and to progress as individuals and will now be able to move on rapidly to the next stage of the cadet syllabus.”

During the week, soldiers from 5th and 7th Battalion The Rifles, were on hand to show the Cadets some of the weapons and equipment they use.

Attending the camp was Cadet Eleanor Morgan from C Company, Warminster Detachment. Eleanor is 17 and has been attending ACF for the past two years, she said:

“I was selected as a section leader which taught me leadership skills that I never thought I had in me. The whole experience has helped boost my confidence, my self-discipline and my organisational skills.

"The Army Cadet Force can help with a person’s future career so much, even if you are not thinking of joining the military. The life skills I have learnt here will stay with me forever.”

Cadet Thomas Barker, 17, from B Company, Corsham Detachment also attended the week-long camp:

“I wanted to join cadets to be part of something bigger. I have been in the Scouts for most of my life and thought why not. I joined just before Covid and it was disappointing not to be able to go to detachment but I just got involved with everything that was online and looked forward to when we could return.

"It's been great to be here and I enjoyed doing the field craft. I have thought about joining the Army but as a Reserve, as I would like to go to university and study Biochemistry but the skills I learn in cadets will improve my employability. This week I have made friends and it has been a great experience all round.”