Five Caterham Cadets attend Master Cadet Courses

Five Caterham Cadets attend Master Cadet Courses

The most demanding course in the Army Cadet movement is the Master Cadet Course, run by the Army at Cadet Training Centre, Frimley Park, the home of cadet training. Only the most impressive senior cadets across the UK are selected to attend. And only the best of them pass the course. This summer, five of us NCOs from Corps were selected to subject ourselves to the ultimate test of our cadetship, fitness, mental strength and leadership.

The Master Cadet qualification aims to “broaden and develop the cadet’s leadership, teamwork, instructional and administrative skills above those gained” at the most senior level of training at unit. In essence, it is the pinnacle of cadet training, the final challenge.  

On the first day, full of nerves, we were issued the same kit and stripped of our ranks. We were all equal, absorbing skills and knowledge from peers immediately, such as spinning sleeping bags inside bivvy bags to get the air out of them or converting our wardrobe into a drying room with an old air heater. The first couple days were formal, and in some ways, luxurious: receiving lectures, tea and biscuits, and people picking our plates up and refilling drinks at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

But soon the real fun and the real challenge began.  

We deployed into the field on the third day, the four-day exercise spanning Monday to Thursday. A cadet’s true colours are exposed after 72 hours in the field. The aim of Master Cadet is to let these colours shine, especially when under pressure and the weight of exhaustion and constantly high expectation.  

It’s 0515 hrs. Reveille. You put on your wet kit from the day before and get ready, clean your rifle, fill bottles and so on. You were briefed on your first mission the night before and deploy before 0700 hrs. Once this mission has been accomplished, you are 90 rounds of ammunition lighter (50 cadets went through 34,000 rounds in 3 days), so you replenish and start patrolling again. Repeat until 1700 hrs, along the way calling in an airstrike on the radio, assaulting an enemy position or conducting an impromptu medevac under fire. Every few missions, it will be your turn to lead, prepare orders, run your section, all assessed by eagle-eyed DS. Now to set up your harbour area and build sentry posts, manned 24/7 by one of the men in your section, one by day, two by night. Then to set up your tarp and lay your doss bag on the floor before slipping out of your wet clothes for a whole three hours of sleep with your rifle before your sentry duty comes around.

The grand finale is the platoon attack, in which two platoons conduct an attack in synchronous harmony from different directions to secure an objective. It was a feeling like no other operating as such a tight team, led in turns by one another and always observed, chivvied and judged by staff. The esprit de corps in our section was unbreakable, working together longer than the sun shined and burning over 4,000 calories a day. It was the respect and confidence in each other that gave us strength to aid each other, even when we had nothing left.  

It was the most demanding and exhilarating experience of my life as a cadet. I get cold from time to time, but I’ve been colder on sentry. I get tired, but not as tired as I was in the platoon attack. I am comfortable being uncomfortable thanks to the course. Never more clearly have I seen how a team cannot excel if everyone is skilled in the same areas. It is the fact that one’s weakness are filled by another’s strength which makes a team effective.

Despite our relative youth and juniority – many on the course were well over 18, when some of us were barely 16 – we all passed with strong reports. Many did not complete the course or pass it. We hope we represented Corps well and bring back countless skills, great confidence and many stories to our work at unit. We are proud to call ourselves Caterham’s first Master Cadets.

CSgt Philip M, Lower Sixth Form

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