By Jemma Robson (L6, W)
During the Easter holidays, I attended the Easter Cadet Leadership Course at Nesscliff. It was available for both CCF (Combined Cadet Force) and ACF (Army Cadet Force) cadets and people from all over the country attended, there were even some from Northern Ireland! Being the only one from Cheltenham College to go, I was extremely apprehensive for the impending journey and experience. Mr Gwynne, the School Staff Instructor of our contingent at school, briefed me extensively about what I could expect on the course. This was extremely helpful and gave me more confidence, so I was fully prepared and raring to go.
On arrival, I was shown to my accommodation where the girls were settling in and we all got chatting immediately. After we changed into our uniform, we began with the weapons handling test and were shown how to use the personal radios ready for the forthcoming events later on in the week. During these activities, I was able to find my feet and meet some new people and my nerves and worries disappeared instantaneously. Most people were in the same position, not knowing anybody and being slightly anxious but once we were put into our sections for the week, we soon became very excited to get to know each other and make our squad the best possible team.
We began the week with a briefing of what our situation was. The enemy had infiltrated the local town and various places were in grave danger. The antagonists were in possession of powerful weapons and our mission was to deny them the ability to use them and stop them from harming civilians and taking areas of interest. Therefore, throughout the week, we had to take part in various activities. My favourite day was full of command tasks, where a leader would be assigned and we would have to work as a team to complete the task as quickly and accurately as possible. Some of these tasks included crossing a minefield to retrieve a casualty without touching the floor, building a shelter for protection from a poisonous gas, being led through a minefield blindfolded and a gun run, which was dismantling a cannon, carrying its various parts through an assault course and reassembling it. All these exercises required communication, teamwork, leadership, and enthusiasm. My section quickly bonded together as a team and we were able to establish team spirit and recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, we took part in activities such as a ‘rummage’, a VCP (vehicle checkpoint), a small section attack, a casualty evacuation, FIBUA (fighting in built up areas), anti-ambush drills and model making. All of these exercises put us in good stead for the three-day exercise we were about to embark on.
After having revised battle drills, packed our bags, loaded our blank rounds into magazines and put on our camouflage cream, we were ready for action. During the late evening, we were told that the targets had been spotted and we would be conducting an ambush on the enemy. This consists of a left cut-off group, the kill group, and the right cut-off group. I was in command of the right cut-off group. We rehearsed what would be required of us and then set out quietly. On the way, we established rendezvous points and at our final rendezvous the commanders met and prepared their squads. Once we were in position we waited for the orders to come on the radio, safety catches off and awaiting the enemy. Once they were spotted the kill group eliminated them with the cut-off groups taking down the ones who escaped. The cut-off groups then sent out runners to take as much intelligence as they could from the bodies. The enemy now knew our position and therefore, we had to ‘bug out’ as quickly as possible, with adrenaline pumping, we evacuated the ambush site and regrouped back at our harbor area.
The penultimate day was what we had all been waiting for, the platoon attack. The night before we had made a model out of mud, grass, sticks, tape, anything we could find to mark our location, the enemy’s locations, and our exit areas. The appointed platoon commander and the sergeant from the cadets explained our mission and we put our heads down for the night having cleaned our weapons and prepared ourselves for the final attack, which was successful!
The week was both physically and mentally challenging. We had to keep encouraging each other and supporting one another to progress and succeed. We wanted to achieve the best possible outcome and perform to the best of our abilities in order to not let each other down. By the end of the week, we had formed bonds and friendships with people, who you would miss the week after and who you would make an effort to see years later. It was an experience that I will never forget and I absolutely loved the adventure. I learnt that to be a good leader you need to have courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, and loyalty. It is easy to have confidence and lead your peers but when you are put in an ambiguous situation, where you don’t know anybody and you only have your own knowledge that is when your abilities are tested. I learnt my limits and I learnt my talents and I take away with me the sincere friendships that I made.