The Air Cadets – their official title is the RAF Air Cadets- is a cadet force with more than 40,000 members in all parts of the UK. As the official title makes clear, it is sponsored by the Royal Air Force and is dedicated to giving young people between the ages of 12 and 20 the chance to engage in a wide range of activities. Many of these activities are aviation based, but others are chosen simply for the chance to experience adventure and the kind of character forming challenges that stand cadets in good stead for the rest of their life.
The Air Cadets is divided into two separate groups. The Air Training Corp is the cadet force of the RAF and has more than 900 squadrons located across the UK. The Combined Cadet Force (RAF) is made up of cadets from the three services – air, sea and land – and is based in more than 200 schools, both state and private, across the country. Between them, the two groups offer a range of activities designed to encourage an interest in aviation and the RAF, but the aims of the Air Cadets go far beyond the service itself. The other activities offered are chosen to give cadets a firm grounding which will help to boost their confidence and self-reliance, and will prove invaluable when it comes to taking further steps into the worlds of education or employment.
Although moving on to the RAF is not a prerequisite of wanting to take on the challenges – and fun – of the Air Cadets, there’s no denying it will give a head start to any youngsters keen on doing so. According to the RAF themselves, 50% of all aircrew, including engineers, navigators and pilots, were members of the Air Cadets when younger.
The original motivation behind the formation of the Air Cadets dates back to 1938, when Air Commodore J A Chamier, feeling that people needed to be more aware of the RAF and the role it would play in any future conflict, founded the Air Defence Cadet Corps. The Corps played a vital role in helping the RAF during World War II and since then has gone on to offer young people the chance to engage in activities ranging from learning to fly gliders and being taken up in a plane piloted by an RAF pilot, to ground based fun such as camping, canoeing, hiking, climbing and mountain biking. Cadets are even given training in military skill such as target shooting. No matter what the activity, the curriculum will be designed to accommodate complete beginners, and to expand and become more challenging as the skill and confidence of the cadet grows.
How to get involved
If you’re interested in joining, simply find out where your nearest squadron is and pay them a visit on one of their twice weekly Parade Nights. They’ll explain what the Air Cadets offer and answer any questions you or your parents/guardians might have. If you decide to join, the uniform is provided free of charge, and the weekly subscriptions are kept as low as possible to encourage cadets from all walks of life.
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