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A week in the highlands – Summer camp at RAF Leuchars,
15th – 22nd August 2009.

For the five cadets of 121 Nuneaton squadron, the week started bright and early, for, being the furthest away from the destination, we were the first pick up, and had our luggage loaded onto the coach by 0700. Despite it being a dreary ten hour journey into the heart of Scotland, the promise of an insight into life on a busy air base kept us all content and excited for the week ahead; as well as hopeful of seeing the station's host aircraft; the tornado F3. Upon arrival to the station at around 1700, we were immediately introduced to the mess and the cadets seemed grateful of a hot meal after travelling for the most part of the day. We were then given the traditional fire and health and safety brief, before being given a quick brief by the ACLO team and Camp Commander regarding what we would be up to throughout the week. As it was too late to start any activities, we were sorted into our flights before being given the rest of the night off; as a way to acquaint ourselves with others and to familiarise ourselves with the block and get settled.

The first day was dedicated to dry training and aimed to qualify and train each cadet in both the L98A1 and the number 8 .22 rifle. Whilst the majority of us went through the drills of maintaining, cleaning, stripping and firing both rifles, those who were already qualified in the rifles participated in a familiarisation exercise around the base which consisted of a quiz, and then offered their knowledge to those unfamiliar with the rifles, assisting them in preparing for their weapons handling tests which would be taken towards the end of the day, or, in some cases, on the Thursday, for we eventually ran out of time. As a change of pace, and to put some variety into the day, we spent a period of time practicing drill in the two flights, as to get each individual used to the drill routine, and to give the flight commanders an idea of the standard of each cadet's drill, so that they could fine tune it before the drill competition on the Friday.

Monday was jam packed with visits to the various sections of the station, which gave us an idea of what different careers there are in the RAF, and how some of them function and what they get up to. Before visiting the various sections we all took positions in front of one of the Tornados and posed for the camp photograph, looking smart in our light blues – for we were being visited by the Air Vice Marshall later on in the day, and proceeded to give an example of air cadet drill upon his arrival.

A visit to the survival section gave us an insight to how all of the survival equipment is maintained within the RAF, and how much care and consideration goes into making sure pilots in particular are kept safe, when in the air, and in the rare occasion that they have to bail from the aircraft. Following this we were split into our two flights and taken up toward the runways and visited the fire and air traffic control sections. My flight visited the fire section first and we were shown around the vehicles that could be mobilised in order to fight aircraft or general on-base fires, and were given time with some of the military firefighters to ask our questions concerning their job. After we'd spend enough time with the fire department, we swapped with A flight and visited the air traffic control tower, and saw how traffic can be observed and controlled via the tower and the radar room – it was surprising how simple the procedures seemed, as the equipment did most of the work! Finally the two flights went to visit the dog section, but were unfortunately only given a short demonstration for the heavens decided to open and soak us all through! Monday evening was an unforgettable experience for three of the cadets; who were given the opportunity to become passengers in a Chinook which had landed at the station, and meanwhile the rest of the camp spent time on St. Andrews beach where the ACLO team had prepared various sports activities, and it was amazing how many cadets decided to run down into the freezing ocean and go for a swim.

Day three was predominately spent in civvies, and we visited Edinburgh to visit Edinburgh castle and spend a little time enjoying the sights and the fringe – which meant that the streets were full of acts and people trying to get rid of endless supplies of leaflets! Unfortunately, due to booking errors, we were unable to visit the castle, but it gave us the opportunity to explore the city and enjoy the sights and circus-like acts of the fringe – which incidentally got five of us photographed by Galaxy news radio! Upon our return to the station, we spent an evening bowling and took the time to socialise between flights and get to know one another better.

Wednesday was another day dedicated to section visits, and involved seeing a multitude of aircraft, from a brief view of the cockpit of the massive VC10 to tours around the QRA tornado – which can be scrambled and in the air within ten minutes, and also tours around the regular tornado – in which many cadets posed for photographs from the cockpit. A handful of the cadets sat in on a briefing for the Tornado pilots and navigators who were to be practicing dogfighting later on that day – and found it interesting how much thought and detail goes into the practice of keeping aircraft handlers in top shape. As well as seeing many aircraft, both on the ground and in the air throughout the day, we also spent a session with one of the Intelligence Officers who gave us an overview of what role intelligence officers play within the RAF, and a basic outline of their jobs. Basic fieldcraft was taught to us by the ACLO team in the evening, in hope that we put what we learnt into play the following night in a night exercise that they had arranged for us to participate in.

Thursday was an opportunity for all of the cadets to put what they had learnt during the dry training into action. Although the weather was terrible, the ranges were used to their full extent, with many cadets, including first time shooters getting marksman's and many a cadet rushed out into the downpour in order to catch a glimpse of various aircraft taking off. Admittedly, seeing a tornado fly over the range with full afterburn in the pouring rain was quite a sight to behold. Due to room limitations on the range, B flight had access during the morning, and A flight during the afternoon – and when not on the ranges each flight had a session with one of the PTI's who led us through a number of teambuilding scenarios and also spent time engaged in team sports. Unfortunately, the night exercise which had been planned for the evening, was cancelled due to the terrible weather, but the day was still thoroughly enjoyable.

Our last day at RAF Leuchars was relaxed and full of fun activities. First of all though, we had to get the drill competition out of the way, and both flights went through the drill sequence which we had practiced time and time again throughout the course of the week. A session with one of the PTI's got us all working physically, and the twenty minute circuit got hearts racing, also giving us an insight as to the level of fitness required in the RAF, as well as giving us an opportunity to let off some steam. A visit to Dundee's leisure pool was just the cool down that we needed, with a wave machine, rapid section and three water slides, the cadets all seemed to enjoy some time just chilling out in the water. As it was our last night, lights out was a little later than usual and we all attended a camp disco, in which many got up on the dance floor and busted out some moves, whilst others used the free time as an opportunity to relax and socialise. Presentations including ‘cadet of the camp' and ‘rear of the week' were given out as the traditional paper plate awards before we all retired for the last time to our dorms, trying to make the most of the final night.

Our last hours at Leuchars were spent packing our belongings, making sure that the rooms were in a presentable state for the fresh batch of cadets who were to arrive later in the day, and stocking up on supplies from the NAAFI in preparation for the long journey home. The Camp Commander gave us a few words regarding the success of the week, presented us with our camp photographs and bade us a final farewell before we all piled onto the coach and began the long trip home.

Overall, I have to say this camp was a triumph, and, despite it being so far away, if the opportunity arose again, I would definitely sign up for it.

Summer camp at RAF Leuchars, 15th – 22nd August 2009

See lots more of the photographs taken by the staff in the RAF Leuchars Photo Gallery

Article Submitted by:-
Cdt Gemma Watson - 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron
18 Sep 09

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