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News > Life After Hymers > ACF Annual Camp

ACF Annual Camp

Tristan Wilson, OH 1977-84, told us about his experience with the Army Cadet Force

Prompted by having just spent a fantastic Annual Camp with the City and County of Bristol Army Cadet Force and our associated unit from Jersey and Guernsey this summer, I thought I would share some of my experiences with the OH Community.

Background

Back in the depths of time (I left Hymers in 1984) between the ages of 14 and 18, I was myself a Cadet. Despite coming from an Army family (at least 4 generations serving in the same Regiment) I did not then take the same career path. However, not only did I thoroughly enjoy my own time as a Cadet, I also feel that it gave me both specific skills and also a general attitude and approach to life that has benefited me ever since.

More recently I was encouraged to re-join the Army Cadet Force (ACF) as an adult instructor (or Cadet Force Adult Volunteer (CFAV) to give it the full title!) by my best friend, made whilst I was at Hymers, a friendship not least developed as we were both cadets together. At that time, Hymers did not have an ACF Detachment, so we joined the Yorkshire and Humberside ACF unit at Wolfreton. As his encouragement coincided with my own children (mostly) leaving the nest, I decided to give it a go. I have not looked back, thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.

I have done a number of courses, most recently passing my Advance Instructors Course, marked by promotion to Serjeant (I am in a Rifles unit, where this is the way it is spelt!) and am now an Instructor deployed into a Detachment in Bristol.

Benefits

An overriding benefit of the ACF is the impact it makes on the young people who are members of it. CFAVs know this intuitively through working closely with those young people and seeing them develop in knowledge, confidence and maturity and convincing them that they can do things that they did not think they could. However, this is not just a “feeling” but is also reflected in a four-year study undertaken by the University of Northampton, which looked at the social impact of cadet forces. It reported clear evidence that, not only is the experience of being a cadet fun and engaging, but it can also transform their lives through improving their social mobility, educational achievement, wellbeing, career prospects and general life chances.

From a more personal perspective, I feel that it gives me practical skills. At first sight, teaching a group of 12–15-year-olds how to cook in the field may not look immediately relevant to my day job (I currently work as a Finance Manager at Airbus). However, being confronted with teaching that lesson at 5 minutes notice has improved my own self-belief and ability to cope under stress without flapping (I’m convinced that the Cadets are able to smell fear in their Instructors!)

A second element of my experience that I believe benefits me is that I get a massive buzz out of what I do, teaching the Cadets new skills, getting to know all the characters (and some of them are very definitely characters!!), watching them develop in confidence and maturity and convincing them that they can do things that they did not think they could. I firmly believe that this has a hugely positive impact on my own mental health and also gives me a sense of perspective in my life outside cadets.

Airbus

I am also lucky that my employer, Airbus, is a signatory to Armed Forces Covenant and our Community. From a practical perspective, this means that I get paid annual leave to attend annual camp, which, compared to some of my colleagues who have to take unpaid leave, is a huge benefit. I also feel that, by supporting the Armed Forces Community, Airbus recognises the contribution that being a CFAV can make to wider society, as outlined above.

Experiences

So, back to this year’s camp …there were definite challenges of being based in several locations (training facilities are currently at a premium) and what has been described as “Biblical” rain (nicely timed for when my group were out in the field!!) but so rewarding, both working with (and learning from) other Cadet Force Adults and with a group of great young people, whose enthusiasm, willingness to learn and general attitude was a real inspiration to me.

We had four days based in barracks, where the focus was on classroom and practical training, including Weapon Handling, Military Knowledge, and First Aid. Then we had three days in the field, where I was given my own section to supervise which, reflecting my Yorkshire heritage, decided to be called “the Fighting Tykes”! This included two nights under “bashas” in very bad weather, cooking standard army rations for themselves on portable stoves, a navigation exercise, and, probably the highlight for most of them, a blank firing exercise where the cadets had to interdict a force of local insurgents recovering a weapons drop!

The cadets all achieved so much which they should be proud of and which I hope will stand them in good stead both in their ongoing cadet careers and in their wider lives. It was a great experience!

 

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