Youngsters are missing out on a host of activities on their doorstep, the commanding officer of an air cadet squadron that’s been going since 1947 has said.
The 2430 (Holbeach) Squadron’s commanding officer flight lieutenant Keith Bates (59) has been involved with the air cadets since he was 13-years-old and he’s disappointed so many people are missing out on what the organisation has to offer.
Now he’s urging teenagers to check out the kind of adventures they could be getting up to through the RAF Air Cadets.
He said of the Holbeach squadron: “At the moment we are desperately short, we’ve got 15 cadets and about six regular volunteers.
“We could take up to 30 more youngsters with a few more volunteers.
“It’s a huge shame as there are so many youngsters missing out on so much.
“We had the chance to go microlight flying at Fleet recently, but we weren’t able to get enough numbers.
“We had to say, sorry we’ve only two or three cadets who could make it when we could have taken 15 or 20 with out mini-bus.
“That’s a lot of teenagers who could have spent a day flying up to Hunstanton and around the area.
“Where else could you do that?”
“You talk to people and they’re and they’re fascinated and shocked at all the opportunities that being a part of air cadets opens.
“When young people find out, they quite often say ‘wow!’
“We offer experiences most 13 or 14-year-olds would love to do.
“It’s also great speaking to ex-cadets about how it’s helped them, particularly those who have gone on to be in the military.
“We teach the basics of that in terms of uniform and drill and it provides them an advantage.
“It’s not just about military though.
“One meeting every month is all about doing sports and there’s the potential to play for various teams representing the air cadets.
“There’s also the Duke of Edinburgh Award and chance to earn qualifications.”
The group’s headquarters is hidden away, right in the centre of town off Church Street.
But the squadron has access to a host of technology including their very own semi-pro flight simulator.
There’s also access to a wealth of RAF equipment be it the potential for flying lessons and camps that can even lead to trips to the likes of Australia.
Cadet sergeant Alex DeBarr (17) has been a cadet for four years and has now applied to the RAF to be a driver or general technician.
“I’ve always been involved with vehicles and helped build up 21 vehicles myself.
“The best thing has been the experiences including on camps with others.
“When I first joined the air cadets I didn’t know anyone – now I know about 300 people through it.
“I think the biggest thing for me is that with each stage I’ve progressed as a person and it’s built up my confidence and leadership skills.
“I feel I’m able to get more out of everyday life.”
Cadet sergeant Helen Savory (17) got into air cadets after meeting Alex when he did a school presentation and she’s not looked back.
She’s particularly excelled in drill and was selected from cadets across the UK for a
national camp in the discipline.
She said: “I’d always had an interest in aviation.
“Camps have been great, particularly national camps and I like the volunteering work we do as I like helping people within the community as well as raising funds for the squadron.
“A big thing for me is passing my experiences on to the rest of the squadron and
giving something back.”
Qualifications the pair have been working towards include Helen’s CVQ level two in volunteering while Alex has been training to be a kayaking coach as well as working towards a Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Keith says of Helen and Alex: “They are very good cadets and they deserve every opportunity going.
“They take as many as they can.
“That’s why we’re as keen to offer them and other cadets as many opportunities as possible.”