Everyone has heard of the army cadets; you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t grow up with classmates attending training nights and competitions, sometimes mysterious to outsiders beyond the involvement of uniforms and drills.
The Army Cadet Force can be traced back as far as 1859, and the current West End location has been in use since the 70s. But if you or your children have never been involved – how much do you really know about the Ministry of Defence-sponsored youth group?
What you’d find on offer, it turns out, is a focus on fun, friendship, adventure and confidence. Right at the heart of Broomhill, A Troop meets at their Crow Road premises twice a week to practise an impressive range of sports, skills and community tasks. ‘We challenge them to learn more, do more and try more,’ says Sergeant Major instructor Joyce Quin. ‘We inspire them to aim high and give them the skills, values and behaviours to go further in life, no matter what they aim to do.’
Think athletics, first aid training, archery, radio communication, canoeing, navigation, skiing, parachuting, table tennis, caving, volleyball and much more – West End teenagers can access all of these for the cost of £10 towards their uniforms and £2 per training session (which happen twice a week). A Troop in the West End welcomes many disadvantaged young people each week, so it’s a priority to keep fees low. Other specialist activities such as music and rock climbing are made available through centres across the UK, with cadets transported in minibuses by volunteer drivers and tuition offered by instructors for free.
The cadets also attend a two-week camp each summer. A spot near Portsmouth was this year’s destination, with participants paying £90 for a fortnight of transport, food, accommodation, competitions, a day at a theme park and a formal dinner night.
Military and drill knowledge are prominent facets of the training, too, and those involved are proud of the discipline, integrity and selflessness it encourages in the cadets, but they’re keen to emphasise that this is no army recruitment scheme.
‘Most young people today follow their own path and are quite headstrong when it comes to making life decisions,’ Joyce adds. ‘For anyone interested in the Armed Forces, then clearly the cadets will give them useful skills and help them decide whether a military life is really for them.
‘However, statistics over the years show that the vast majority of our youngsters take a different route and end up succeeding in all sorts of other careers. Captain Alec Stirling MBE has led A Troop for over 27 years. Nearly 1,000 young people have passed through our doors in his time, and he estimates that less than 2% have gone into military service.’
The cadets are all about building resilience on both an individual and a community level. Joyce says they aim to ‘foster confidence, self-reliance, initiative, loyalty and a sense of service to other people’; the opportunity to cultivate a network of friends outside school is a big plus for those who attend, with the current troop drawn from nine different high schools in the area (ages 12-17 years). ‘Joining the cadets was the best thing I’ve ever done. No one realises just how good it is until they give it a chance,’ one youngster testifies.
There are opportunities to gain vocational qualifications through cadet training too, instructors ensuring they help prepare kids for the future in whichever ways they can. Cadets can pick up a BTEC1 in Teamwork, Personal Skills and Citizenship; a Young Leaders Award; a BTEC2 in Music for Practical Performance; an award in Leadership and Management and a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in bronze, silver or gold. Joyce says, ‘Celebrating success is one of the things we do best, and everyone finds something that they’re good at.’
The idea of military and drill training might seem a daunting prospect to those interested in getting involved, but they should be reassured that the cadet force wouldn’t see the success it does if there wasn’t a solid culture of support ingrained in what they do. ‘A Troop is like a family to all of us. We spend so much of our time together that we know each other really well, know our young people really well, and devote most of our free time to cadet activities,’ Joyce says.
‘The reward is seeing the delight in the young people’s faces when they finally succeed at something they’ve strived for. Be it their first ‘basic’ badge, a medal for sporting achievement, or a promotion to Cadet Sergeant – everyone finds their niche in our family and they embark on adult life as confident young people bursting with A Troop Attitude.’
For more information visit – armycadets.com – local enquiries should head for the Glasgow & Lanarkshire Battalion pages.