In July 2017, 11 cadets and 3 Cadet Force Adult Volunteers from TS Stirling Sea Cadets in Birmingham set off for the adventure of a lifetime in the USA – Exercise Stirling Venturer 2017.
The group consisted of six senior cadets from the community side of TS Stirling and five, newly enrolled cadets from Tile Cross Academy. The school has recently joined the Cadet Expansion Programme and forms ‘Forward Division’ of TS Stirling with both Sea and Royal Marine cadets.
With bags packed and parents waved goodbye, the cadets boarded the plane at Manchester airport. Touching down in the USA, they went on to join 300 American cadets from 19 high schools in New England to take part in a five-day Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge (JCLC).
None of the British cadets had been to the USA before and they come from one of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK. However, with the support of the Ulysses Trust, Pupil Premium Funding, and the contribution of funds from TS Stirling, no cadet was excluded on the basis of parental income.
On arriving in Boston the first task for all the cadets was to prepare their uniform for the following day to take part in the opening ceremony for Sail Boston – the Tall Ships visit. The cadets looked very smart in their No.1s as they joined their American counterparts who were dressed in their summer ‘whites’. Two days later the cadets headed to Fort Devens to take part in the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge. This involved the companies rotating through three different activities over three days.
- Civilian Marksmanship (air rifle shooting)
- Leadership Reaction Course (command tasks/ personal leadership tasks) and the rappelling tower (abseiling)
- Watermanship and leadership games (kayaking, raft building, canoeing, flotation packs)
ESPRIT DE CORPS
The cadets were quickly split up from their school mates and friendship groups. However, the company staff soon set about building an ‘esprit de corps’ and a unique identity for each company. This helped forge new friendships and break down barriers. Throughout the week cadets were given command appointments from Company Commander down. They were assessed on, and expected to self-assess, their performance using the criteria used by the University Officer Training Corps programme. The expedition was a huge success on many levels. It helped forge strong links between TS Stirling and the new cadets in Forward Division. Also, it gave the new cadets a unique opportunity to experience military life for seven days with six senior cadets acting as role models. Needless to say, all the cadets gained enormously from their experience which improved their self-confidence, personal and social skills. In addition, lasting partnerships have been forged with the US Navy Sea Cadet Corps and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Army League.
“When I started on the JCLC I was so scared and homesick I wanted to go home and was crying all the time. When it finished I didn’t want to go home and was crying at having to say goodbye to all my new friends. I have learnt so much. It was the best experience of my life so far”.
Cadet Hannah Jay, SCC (Forward Division)