Army Cadets from the north west had plenty to talk about when they returned to school after the summer holidays.
Over 350 young people found their holidays packed full of fun, action, adventure and the chance to meet new friends at Army Cadet Summer Camp.
All members of the 1st (Northern Ireland) Battalion, Army Cadet Force (ACF), a youth organisation for all young people aged 12 to 18 years old, travelled to Sennybridge Camp, South Wales, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park for a two-week camp in July.
Over 100 cadets from B Company, which covers County Londonderry, were joined by Cadets from Counties Antrim, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Belfast.
After a long journey and a good meal everyone had the chance to get to rest for a few hours before they gathered on the parade square where the Cadet Commandant, Colonel David Kane welcomed them.
During the parade the Cadet Commandant made a special presentation of six Cadet Leadership Course certificates to six female cadets who had just attended the tough course.
The cadets were then split into different training companies depending on what stage of training they had reached. The younger cadets who were attending their first camp joined the 1 star training company which was titled ‘Barossa Company’. The cadets who were in their second year joined ‘Waterloo Company’ and the more senior cadets going for three star joined ‘Namur Company’ as they would do much more advanced training than the other companies.
There were two other types of cadets at camp: Firstly the Senior Cadets, who are mostly 16 years old and had already passed three star and about to take part in the ‘Senior Cadet Instructors Cadre’ (SCIC) were they would be taught how to teach by members of 38 (Irish) Brigade Cadet Training Team so that they can go on and teach the younger cadets in their detachments at home.
The other type of Senior Cadet were those who had already completed the SCIC and were now Cadet Instructors, who would assist the adult staff to teach the one and two Star Cadets.
Major Sam Donnell, completing his last camp as the B Company Commander before taking up the post of Battalion Training Officer, said: “This is a great experience for the Cadets, two weeks away from their families with other young people of their age and meeting many of them for the first time.
“Some of the cadets are attending their first camp but others could be attending their final camp as they reach the upper age limit of 18 years old.
“They all live, train and enjoy free time with other cadets coming from all parts of Northern Ireland many of them will remain close friends even after they leave the cadets”
During the camp, the cadets took part in various activities such as fieldcraft, target shooting navigation, first aid, drill and much more. As part of the fieldcraft training the cadets looked forward to getting the chance to camp out for 48 hours “playing soldiers” this involves them having to get the camouflage face paint on, learn how to build a shelter, cook their own food with a 24 hour operational ration pack as well as carryout patrols and finally carry out an attack on the enemy position.
The cadets also took part in an adventure training package held at Blackwater Activity Centre which included canoeing, raft building, a high ropes course abseiling from a very high tower and archery as well as team building games.
Corporal Matthew Walker (15) from the Waterside, said: “It was a hard but really fun with plenty of action out patrolling looking for the enemy day and night, the only word I can describe the whole camp was ‘brilliant’.”
The senior cadets were invited to a formal regimental dinner hosted by the Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major, accompanied by Honorary Colonel Joan Christie, HM Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim and the Cadet Commandant along with other guests, senior officers and adult instructors.
They were assisted at the camp by Senior Padre Rev Kenneth Crowe assisted by Rev Jack Moore and, for the first time, Rev. Brian Hassan from St Canices Parish Eglinton not only did a great job driving the minibuses but are experts in dealing with any homesick cadets.
Lance Corporal Lucy Robinson (16), from Donemana, a member of Waterloo Company, said of her experience: “I really enjoyed camp I made so many good friends and done so much stuff, I really enjoyed the target shooting as well as the adventure training it was really exciting and fun.
“The cadets is probably the best thing I have ever done and I look forward to doing even more in the next few weeks such as climbing all the four highest mountains in the UK in aid of the Children’s Hospice, I would recommend the ACF to all young people”.
After all this hard work the cadets and adults all had the chance to let their hair down and have a day out to either Cardiff or at a local theme park.
The cadets went home with many stories and new friends to tell their family about and are now looking forward to a tough, exciting and rewarding training year starting in September with many hoping to gain promotion and more qualifications.
Those who would like more information on the Cadets,or how to join the ACF should log on at website www.armycadets.com/1stNIacf or on Facebook 1NIACF