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When In Doubt, Build a Tripod. The Air Cadet Leadership Course

Article posted: Jul 24, 2013 by Sqn Ldr Wilson

Sergeant Barnaby Taylor (17) of 209 (West Bridgford) Squadron has successfully completed the week long Air Cadet Leadership Course held at RAF Cranwell. Below he described the challenges and rewards of the course.

Saturday, 64 of us arrived and found our accommodation, met our Flights and Flight Commanders. We also had a welcome brief and an inspection. High standards were expected from start to finish in everything including our uniform.

Sunday: We got up at 0600, in time for a 1.5 mile run. This was followed by drill until breakfast. All of the drill in the week was focused towards preparing us for our graduation parade. After breakfast we went on Exercise Singleton, a 16 mile walk designed to let us get to know our Flights and for our Flight Commanders to start judging our characters as team members and leaders.

Monday: The day started with more drill at 0600 until breakfast. Then we had briefings and demonstrations on the safe use of equipment and the correct procedures to follow in the command tasks. After lunch we started the Phase 1 command tasks. These were 10 minutes exercises which included delivering a SMEAC briefing (Situation, Mission, Execution, Any questions, Check understanding) and then directing the team in completing the task. Each team member lead a task and at the end of every task we had a debrief with our Flight Commander and the rest of the Flight on how to improve. Although we were still learning, we were assessed during phase 1.

Tuesday: Phase 2 command tasks all day. These were 25 minute exercises and were slightly more in-depth tasks involving larger and more dangerous equipment like pine poles and rope. This was one of the reasons that high standards were vital. The tasks still followed the same format of delivering a SMEAC briefing, attempting to complete the task and then having a debrief. Again, phase 2 was assessed.

Wednesday: We set off to the edge of the base and set up a large camp of several 12×12 tents and a 12×24 tent. Setting up the tents was like a leadership task in itself! In fact, a phase 2 task had been to set up a 12×12. Then we were issued with 24 hour ration packs and had our lunch out of them. In the afternoon we began the phase 3 command tasks. This was a big step-up since each task lasted 40 minutes and most were very complex, with many limitations and requiring multitasking. Again large pine poles and ropes were often used (especially for building tripods!). Of course, each task started with a SMEAC brief and had a debrief at the end. Since the tasks were so long, only around 5 of us had a lead that day.

Thursday: More phase 3 command tasks after a night under canvas, a ration pack breakfast and an inspection! Those who didn’t get a lead on Wednesday were given their chance today. At lunch we were issued with another 24hr ration pack. Since we had one fewer flight member than the others (10 instead of 11), we had a spare task at the end. Our Flight Commander asked if anyone was willing to risk the pass that we had already gained in order to possibly improve our course report and I was the only one that put my hand up. Despite my Flight Commanders best efforts to dissuade me from taking on the exercise, I took this last opportunity to impress. It was a good decision as he later described the exercise as “text-book.” We didn’t actually complete the task, but the assessment is based on your leadership and in no way on the completion of the task. That evening we took down most of the 12×12 tents under the direction of the adult SNCOs. We then had an orienteering exercise and a log-run which would go towards the inter-flight competition. In the evening, we set up bashers (small one-person shelters made from a sheet of waterproof material) and slept under them.

Friday: We finally got back to the accommodation and showered after breaking camp. We then changed into blues for more drill, which we spent most of the rest of the day doing until our block inspection. This was followed by a social evening, the first free time we’d had all week! It was then an early night for most to prepare for our big day tomorrow.

Saturday: We put the finishing touches to our uniform, ate breakfast and were shipped off to College Hall where our parents awaited us. We had the graduation parade we’d be waiting for all week on the parade square in front of College Hall. We were issued with Air Cadet Leadership badges for our brassards. This was my highlight of the whole week. We then collected our belongings from the block and said farewell and left the staff to prepare to receive the next course later that day.

My refection on the Air Cadet Leadership Course. “It was an intense week. There was no time to rest and we only got at most 6 hours sleep every night. However it was a fantastic learning experience and I would truly recommend it to anyone who wants to further their leadership ability. The graduation parade was a very proud moment and one that you will never forget.”