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SPECIAL REPORT: Youngsters take aim with the area’s army cadet force

Army cadets on parade at their meeting in Spalding before the evening's activities. (SG150218-101TW).
Army cadets on parade at their meeting in Spalding before the evening's activities. (SG150218-101TW).

In a bid to help children off social media and back into the community, learning new skills and making new friends, this week we look at the army cadets.

They meet locally in Spalding, Holbeach, Long Sutton, Bourne, Kirton and Billingborough but are not just for youngsters looking for a career in the army.

Cadet Billie-Jo learns to handle a rifle safely. (SG150218-109TW).
Cadet Billie-Jo learns to handle a rifle safely. (SG150218-109TW).

Staff Sergeant Instructor (SSI) Steve Walker, detachment commander for the Spalding group, said: “It’s not all about the army. It’s also great for discipline and building self-confidence.

“The cadets get to learn key skills of life such as first aid and take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

“They also have to do a community project that benefits the community (called ‘cadet and the community’).

“Numbers attending vary from about 30-40 cadets. At the moment there are 38 on the books at Spalding.”

The cadets get to learn key skills of life, such as first aid - SSI Steve Walker
SSI Steve Walker

Donington Thomas Cowley High School student Billie-Jo Taylor (14) was recently on work experience with us at the Spalding Guardian.

She has been part of the Spalding Army Cadets since last year.

She said: In September/October I went to scope out the cadets (through some very frequent insisting spanning about a year from one of my friends who joined two years ago) and decided to give it a go.

“We get to do things such as drill (that’s the marching parts and other commands), respecting each other and our uniforms (especially the boots as my friend reminds me often), navigations and learning how to use maps, and PT or physical training.

SSI Steve Walker leads the cadets through their weapons training. (SG150218-105TW).
SSI Steve Walker leads the cadets through their weapons training. (SG150218-105TW).

“This is only what I’ve learnt as a newbie, or ‘basic’ as it is officially known.

“There is more to come, increasing in difficulty as it does.

“In the relatively short while I’ve been attending I’ve made several new friends, said goodbye to members who have aged out (age limit is 12-18 years for juniors, but trust me you can get a lot done in that time), supported the poppy foundation by selling poppies in Spalding town centre and taken part in the remembrance parade, to name a few things.

“As well as learning skills and respect, there are also opportunities to go on weekend, three days or even week-long camps.

“I have yet to go on one of these camps and I’m very excited to go on one in the future.

“There are also trips that the more experienced members go on to compete with other groups of cadets and win awards (and the satisfaction that you have out-skilled the others!)

“That’s in things like shooting, first aid, even sports like football and rugby.”

Billie-Jo was taking part in her weapons training segment when our photographer Tim Wilson popped along to one of the Spalding group’s Wednesday evening meetings.

SSI Walker said: “It’s part of their skill at arms training.

“They have to do nine lessons before they can carry out a test and adhere to certain criteria and safety before they are allowed onto a range to fire.”

Billie-Jo was on lesson one of her weapons training, using a deactivated L98A2 DP rifle.

On the night our photographer went along, another cadet was on his basic lesson, which required him to go over his military knowledge and the badges of different ranks.

Nationally, the Army Cadet Force has nearly 40,000 cadets (aged 12-18) and 9,500 adults in over 1,600 locations across the UK.

It is one of the country’s largest voluntary youth organisations, and one of the oldest, tracing its history back to 1859.

The cadets welcome boys and girls (aged over 12 and in at least year eight at school) of all abilities and backgrounds.

The organisation is sponsored by the Ministry of Defence but says there is no obligation on cadets to join the Armed Forces.

The Army Cadet Force also plays an active role in the local community and a major part of the training for any cadet is citizenship training.

This forms part of the APC (Army Proficiency Certificate) syllabus .

The Spalding group meets every Wednesday between 6.45-9pm at the cadet hut at the Castle Sports Complex.

SSI Walker added: “We are always looking for instructors.

“They do not have to have military experience. They get all the training.”

For the cadets, it’s £1 per session to attend and uniform is supplied on loan and free of charge.

“They just need to buy a pair of good boots and a hoodie which is £15.”

○ If you would like to find out more, contact SSI Walker via email at: 2258walke@armymail.mod.uk or call him on 07850 364140.

Army cadet Billie-Jo said that one of the highlights of being in the group is having fun.

She added: “Despite all the amazing things we are taught, the best thing for me is the humour.

“Yes, we can be serious when required, but every other time is so funny I often go home with my sides hurting from laughing so hard.

“Sadly, the ring-leader of this fun has very recently left the detachment, but I’m sure the people stepping into his shoes will be just as great at keeping the atmosphere light and friendly, yet controlled.

“Everyone is very friendly, human and understanding, so cast aside the stereotype that it’s all shouting.

“The only shouting is during drill training, and honestly, it’s needed.

“It pulls the whole appearance together (and we can’t hear the commands otherwise).

“Another big point made is that bullying is a big no.

“In the worst instance, if that were to happen, the cadet would be asked to leave and hand in their uniform. Thankfully, I haven’t had to witness that.

“I’m really liking my experience here, being taught new skills that could ultimately help me in the future.

“An example of this could be the first aid.

“We learn what to do when someone is bleeding, choking, having a heart attack or a stroke and how to give CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

“And that’s only the beginning of what we are eventually taught.

“Because I’ve only been going a short time I’ve only been taught the very basics in these skills.

“As time progresses I will recap these skills and build on them.

“I’ll eventually be given a qualification to put on my CV, when I need one, and possibly appeal to more employers.”

○ IF YOU WOULD LIKE YOUR YOUTH ORGANISATION OR GROUP FEATURED, GET IN TOUCH WITH US AT: spaldingeditor@iliffepublishing.co.uk, tweet us: @Spalding2day or write to us at: The editor, Priory House, The Crescent, Spalding, Lincolnshire. PE11 1AB.


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