PBA senior planner Caroline Wright is a captain and second-in-command of a company of around 200 cadets aged 12 and a half to 18 and approximately 30 adult volunteers, in seven detachments across Greater Manchester.
How did you get into the Army Cadet Force (ACF)?
I was always interested in the army, but through the Officer Training Corps at university I quickly realised it wasn’t the career for me. I enjoyed all the training and combat-related activities, but the guarantee of a hot bath at the end of the weekend followed by a week of rest was what kept me going on a 48-hour exercise. The ACF allows me to have a professional career while enjoying all the fun parts of the army environment but without the same level of personal commitment required by the Army Reserves.
What does it involve?
In a nutshell, I organise the safe and enjoyable training and welfare of all the cadets and adults in my company. This is in all aspects of military and life skills - everything from delivering weapons and first-aid training, to planning and organising blank firing exercises and live firing range practices and facilitating Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions.
Why do you do it?
I often wonder this myself. I have a lot of friends in the ACF and it offers me the opportunity to have a real break from the day job.
What’s the toughest thing about it?
Finding the time to do anything and, when you get it, finding the energy to face the amount of paperwork required is demanding work. That, and managing volunteer staff, is a monumental task.
What’s the most rewarding thing about it?
Watching the cadets achieve goals is great. The ACF attracts people from all walks of life and knowing you’ve had a hand in developing a child into a well-rounded individual is a great feeling. I’ve trained cadets from deprived backgrounds now at university or in full-time professional jobs, which they accredit mainly to the skills, experiences and values we gave them.
Are there any similarities between your day job and the Army Cadet Force?
Certainly in terms of the planning and preparation of events and exercises, but also in engaging with people unfamiliar with what we do. I have to deal with a lot of external bodies including local authorities and charities to deliver training. This has greatly enhanced my negotiation skills, vital to the planning process.
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