Lifelong dreams were fulfilled as hundreds of junior soldiers graduated from Army Foundation College (AFC) Harrogate. More than 400 marched onto the parade square to mark the successful completion of their Phase One training.
The prestigious ceremony is the culmination of months of intensive training, nurturing and education that is tailored exclusively to junior soldiers. Their final exercise is an intense, seven-day battle camp encompassing all they have learnt during their time at AFC Harrogate. The 17 and 18-year-olds will now go on to complete their trade training before joining regiments across the UK.
The parade was led off the square by Bradley Ruddy, aged 17. This was in recognition of him being awarded the title of Best Recruit and saw him give the final words of command to all the soldiers on parade.
Bradley said: “Everyone deserved their spot on the drill square. We’ve all worked extremely hard and put a hundred per cent effort in.”
It was a proud moment when I was told I’d been named Best Recruit and would lead the parade off the square. It’s an honour.” Best Junior Soldier,
Junior Regimental Sergeant Major Bradley Ruddy
The junior soldiers’ training has included leadership development, The Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, sport, adventurous training, and education.
He continued: “It was a proud moment when I was told I’d been named Best Recruit and would lead the parade off the square. It’s an honour.”
Bradley is joining the Coldstream Guards and has packed a lot into his time at the AFC. He said: “I joined because I wanted to travel the world and, in the Army, you can do that for free.
“I’ve always been big into doing things outdoors and the Army offers a lot of adventure training, so that caught my eye.”
“I do a lot of running and I’m a big hill walker. I just like being outside.”
His first Army trip abroad saw him travel to Normandy, France for a five-day Realities of War exercise. He learnt about the Second World War and visited the D-day beaches, the German defensive positions and Normandy’s war cemeteries.
Bradley was part of a team of four that represented AFC Harrogate at the World Pace Sticking Competition held at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
“It was the first time the AFC had entered a team. At first, we practised on the parade square with our Platoon Sergeant then in the mornings and evenings on our own time. We came fifth overall.”
He has also represented his platoon at boxing. “It was a lot of training before the working day,” he said. “I’d be up at half five to train before the working day started. We’d all then be training in the evenings after work as well. It was a good experience, and our platoon won the overall competition.”
Also on parade were twin sisters Laura and Kate Hanna, aged 17. Laura who is joining the Royal Armoured Corps said: “Our dad was in the Army. We’ve grown up with it.”
“It’s been good having Kate here. We were not in the same company, so we only saw each other in the evenings.
“I’ve enjoyed learning about what happened in Normandy, and I enjoyed Battle Camp, where we did live firing. I’ve done cross country and athletics.
Kate who is joining the Household Cavalry said: “The Household Cavalry appealed because you are trained to operate armoured vehicles and swap between that and ceremonial duties.”
Among those graduating was Ethan Barnaby, who always knew Army life was for him. He said: “I’d always wanted to join the military. I always thought it was the best option for me. I saw programmes on TV and heard about the Army on the news growing up. It’s always been this. I’ve never thought about doing anything else.”
Ethan, who will go on to serve in the Household Cavalry, continued: “It’s a lot different than what people expect. People think they will always be in a field or on operations, but it’s not like that.
“There are two sides to Army life. You can be working in camp, where it is pretty much like a nine to five job. You have PT (physical training) and you are learning new stuff. It’s a bit like college I suppose. Then the other side is being out in the field.”
On leaving the AFC, the junior soldiers will join units from a variety of cap badges and Corps.
The college runs two courses, a 49-week long course and a shorter 23-week course. The 49-week course is for Junior Soldiers joining the Infantry, Armoured Corps, Royal Artillery, Household Cavalry and Royal Logistic Corps.