Blank Firing Is Approved
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By Flt Lt Yarrow - 1151 (Wallsend) Squadron
At the Durham/Northumberland Wing 75th Anniversary parade the Regional Commandant, Group Captain Leeming, was approached by Cadet Sgt Forsyth and asked if cadets would be allowed to use blank firing weapons at the forthcoming Northumbria Army Cadet Force Camp at Otterburn in North Northumberland.
Unable to give an immediate answer Group Captain Leeming instructed Sgt Forsyth to ask the Accompanying Officer Flt Lt Yarrow to e-mail him with a formal request for the cadets to be allowed to use blank firing weapons under ACF supervision and after appropriate training.
Two days into the camp HQAC’s decision arrived – “Blank firing is approved” and the message soon spread around the whole camp, and final training began on the L98A2 GP rifle, with the Air Training Corps cadets allocated to the various star groups. The last big difference between the ATC and ACF on the camp was now gone. ACO personnel could now fully take part in all camp activities.
Northumbria ACF, our hosts, are cap badged to a number of regiments, so the blue beret was just one among many different headdresses. We were made more than welcome by all personnel and were treated as an integral part of the team lead by Colonel David Middleton MBE TD.
Our cadets were allocated a position in one of the four training groups based on their fieldcraft experience taught at the annual Durham/Northumberland Wing Multi-Activity Camp held at Warcop, and also training at their home units. Every cadet spent at least two nights out in the field, using a shelter sheet and living on issued 24-hour ration packs, whilst using the new issue gel field cookers.
Two of our cadets Sgt Forsyth and Cpl Aisbitt were part of the three-star training group, taking part in various fieldcraft drills and exercises and eventually being appointed section commanders. As section commanders the two N.C.O.s were responsible for a number of other cadets’ health and welfare and commanded groups in the field. It was pleasing to see that our two N.C.O.s were trusted with such responsibility by the ACF.
Fieldcraft is an integral part of the ACF’s Army Proficiency Syllabus, but the cadets also took part in navigation exercises, adventure training on the hills and on the water at Kielder, as well as shooting and first aid. Every cadet fired at least one type of weapon, the junior “one star” cadets using the Scorpion air rifle, with more senior cadets using the No 8 (.22) rifle and the L98A2. Cadets with specialist skills were used as cadet instructors, so it was not unusual to see ATC cadets teaching ACF cadets first aid, and ACF cadets teaching ATC cadets navigation. Plans were discussed at senior level to integrate ACF cadets into the training package at the Warcop Multi-Activity Camp in October.
During the time at Otterburn, there were visits from a number of senior officers, of one and two-star status. This included Major-General Paul Nanson CBE, the Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He spoke with the cadets to see how well the two cadet organisations had worked so well together. During the visit from Wing Commander Harris both he and Colonel Middleton heard at first hand of the many highs and very few lows of the two-week camp. It had been a great success.
On behalf of all the ACO personnel at the Otterburn Camp I would like to express my thanks for our welcome and the training we received, and the invitation to attend next year’s camp at Nesscliffe, Shropshire.
For more information please visit the Squadron website