Graduation day finally arrived this week for 400 Junior Soldiers at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate.
The graduation ceremony marked the end of an intensive Army training course for the 16- and 17-year-old junior soldiers.
The College based at Uniacke Barracks in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, provides a unique combination of military basic training and vocational training. It has two intakes a year in March and September and runs two types of courses, a 49-week long course and a shorter 23-week course to train junior soldiers destined for a wide variety of Army careers.
Going to the Army Foundation College has been tough - a reality-check compared to school. I’ve had some great experiences here Junior Soldier O’Hara, Army Foundation College
The 49-week course (including eight weeks’ holiday) is for Junior Soldiers joining the Infantry, Armoured Corps, Royal Artillery, Household Cavalry and Royal Logistic Corps. The 23-week course (including three weeks' holiday) is designed for other cap badges including the Army Medical Corps, Royal Engineers and Royal Corps of Army Music.
Junior Soldier Jack O’Hara (16) was one of the 400 Junior Soldiers on parade. He said: “Going to the Army Foundation College has been tough - a reality-check compared to school. I’ve had some great experiences here.”
Jack will join the Royal Engineers to train as a bricklayer. He said: “I chose that trade because one day I want to start my own civil engineering business."
“My family is supportive of me joining the Army and my friends think it’s cool. I’ve always looked at the Army as a career and am not sure what else I would have done.”
The military training syllabus teaches the Junior Soldiers the basics of soldiering, from how to look after their kit to how to safely handle and fire an assault rifle. They learn fieldcraft and take part in military exercises.
The training also furthers their education as well. English is prioritised, followed by Maths and then Information Communication Technology /BTEC. All Junior Soldiers with any Additional Learning Needs are fully supported.
The Junior Soldiers travel to Normandy, France, for a 5-day Realities of War (RoW) exercise. There, they learn about the Second World War by visiting the D-Day beaches, German defensive positions and various cemeteries. This exercise reinforces the importance of military training and provides the Junior Soldiers with time to reflect on the impact of war.
It also brings to life the military skills which they are taught and why the Army’s core Values and Standards are just as important today as they were in 1944.
Sixteen-year-old Byron Davis who was also on parade said: “My best experiences were being able to lead a section attack on an exercise and also going to Normandy for the Battlefield Tour. Learning about World War Two put the losses and sacrifice into perspective.”
I chose the electrician trade in the Royal Engineers because I want to learn a trade that will benefit me when I eventually leave the Army JUNIOR SOLDIER Davis, ARMY FOUNDATION COLLEGE
Byron follows in the footsteps of his dad who served with the Army’s 11 Explosive Ordnance and Search Regiment. His Uncle and Aunt have also served in the military.
His dad helped with his research into the Army Foundation College.
He said: “My dad has been an inspiration to me."
“I chose the electrician trade in the Royal Engineers because I want to learn a trade that will benefit me when I eventually leave the Army."
“My advice to others thinking about joining the Army is to just go for it. There are so many opportunities. You will never meet friends anywhere else like you do in the Army.”
The Junior Soldiers also work on their physical fitness, leadership and team skills as part of the College’s personal and team package.
They undertake a number of adventure training activities and are also given the opportunity to sample a wide variety of sports promoting fitness and agility.
Soldiers have the opportunity to gain their Duke of Edinburgh Award, learn languages and musical instruments as well as participating in sports teams.
If any of the Junior Soldiers have a problem, whether it be ironing shirts or feeling homesick, there is no shortage of people to talk to. There is a Lieutenant in overall charge of each platoon which normally made up of 20 Junior Soldiers, they are assisted by a sergeant and four Corporal instructors. There is also a separate Unit Welfare Officer and Padre on call 24-hours a day.
Following the parade and some well-earned leave, the teenagers will begin their specialist trade training in different locations all over the country depending on their specialism.
Over the years, many Junior Soldiers have progressed to the senior non-commissioned rank of Warrant Officer Class One and some have also promoted to Officers. Whatever the next step for these newly graduated Junior Soldiers, the future holds many opportunities for these disciplined, fit and proud soldiers.