My 10 years in the Army Cadet Force

You have to retire from the Regular Armed Forces when you reach the age of 55, you have no choice about it. I emerged with a whole raft of Adventurous Training qualifications that I wanted to further amortise, so I spent a decade (part-time) in the Army Cadet Force dealing with other parents’ boys and girls in the age range 13 to 18. They were all committed volunteers with bags of enthusiasm, which meant they were a pleasure to work with. On several occasions, individual Cadets volunteered the information that they loved the discipline they got in the ACF, discipline they said they never got at home or at school; I found this a somewhat saddening reflection on modern society. The highlights for me were:

  1. Teaching classes of Cadets to ski in the Bavarian Alps during their February half-term weeks;
  2. Backpacking on several occasions through the Scottish Highlands while ’supervising at a distance’ teams of Cadets mounting Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award Expeditions;
  3. Taking them caving. Because they were slightly out of their comfort zone when underground, they were completely tractable, which made them a delight;
  4. Teaching them rock-climbing, 6 at a time. I would set up running belays at the tops of 3 adjacent climbs on a single pitch cliff and supervise 3 Cadets at the foot of the crag belaying 3 Cadets who were climbing. Once they reached the top they were lowered back to the ground and the 6 Cadets rotated roles. After one of these rock climbing sessions I gathered the Cadets together at the foot of the crag and gave then a stern lecture about the dangers of running back downhill to our minibus with rucksacks loaded with gear, making it clear that if any of them tripped and got injured, I would expect the others to testify to my instructions. After getting a chorus of “Yes Sir!”, I put on my rucksack and immediately ran back down to the minibus as fast as I could. The Cadets were only momentarily nonplussed before whooping with delight and charging down on my tail trying unsuccessfully to burn me off. After that, I had them exactly where I wanted them, willing to follow me anywhere. When dealing with teenagers, psychology is vitally important.

I found this experience both uplifting and rewarding, so if you are a regular in the Armed Forces reaching retirement age, and if you have suitable qualifications to offer, I would strongly urge you to seriously consider the Cadet Forces.


This webpage was last updated 16th May 2018.


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