Air Cadets from 121 (Nuneaton) and 485 (Harborne & Quinton) Squadrons really pushed their corps motto 'Venture Adventure' to the limit when they became the first group of cadets to attend the Royal Air Force, Force Development Training Centre (FDTC) at Fairbourne in Wales.
The cadets underwent an extensive Adventurous Personal Development Programme, which has up to now only been carried out by regular RAF personnel. The Adventurous Personal Development training Programme undertaken by the cadets is designed to promote self-awareness and encourage individuals to acknowledge their strengths and recognise personal attributes and inter-personal skills that they can develop within a team environment.
Throughout the weeklong course, a range of Adventure Training activities were used to Challenge the young cadets and their accompanying staff. Each individual was faced with having to find the courage, self-discipline and resourcefulness to confront new and at times intimidating team and personal tasks. But the key to the entire programme is not focused on winning or for that matter completing the whole challenge but on enabling individuals to push what you could call their own 'comfort zone' to the limit and then giving them the Choice to stop if they feel they need to. Thus 'Challenge By Choice'. All the activities are undertaken in an open and safe environment, allowing each individual to understand their capabilities and limitations.
16-year-old Cadet Corporal Dale Mckeown from Bedworth said, "I have done some exiting things with the Air Cadets before but I have never done anything quite like the 'High Ropes' course. When I first saw it some 60 to 70 ft up in the trees I thought I would never be able to do it. Even though I knew I was all togged up in a safety harness and knowing that I was safe it certainly took everything I'd got to get myself to climb up to the top of what was no more than a enormous telegraph pole. Getting up there was one thing, having to stand on top of it was something completely different. Having done that the next stage was to leap out to catch a trapeze so that I could swing over to the next stage of ropes. I could describe the feeling but you wouldn't be able to print it. God knows how but I had a go at jumping for it but missed and I was lowered back down to the ground. I was glad I'd had a go, I'd faced the Challenge but on this occasion I must say that I didn't come back down by Choice, gravity saw to that, but I was thankful to be back on the ground again, ready for the next challenge."
As well as the High Ropes course the cadets faced an extensive range physically and mentally challenging adventure training activities which included Caving, Abseiling, Climbing, Hill Walking, a Low Ropes course and a Zip Line that the cadets described as Awesome!
121 Squadrons Commanding Officer Flt Lt Ian Crewe who accompanied the cadets said, "This has been the most physically demanding course I have ever attended with the Air Cadets. We have all been faced with so many new challenges, which have tested our own individual drive and willpower. Although the Personal Development training Programme at Fairbourne is primarily designed to enable individuals to discover and develop their own strengths and personal attributes I think the most rewarding thing for me was seeing how well the cadets recognised the contributions of the other members of their team and how they helped each other to complete their task. In one notable instance the cadets had set themselves the task of reaching their next objective the hard way by scaling a rugged peak instead of taking the easy option. They were all so determined to succeed but when one of the staff members found themselves unable to handle the climb and chose to drop out they refused to leave the member of staff at the pickup point and changed their planned route, they even helped to carry the staff members kit, such was their resolve to stick together and reach their destination as a team".
"I think we have all learnt so much about ourselves and teamwork during our week at FDTC Fairbourne. We've all found it most rewarding and I am sure that the cadets would all jump at the chance of being able to go back again. Two bits of advice for any other cadet units contemplating a visit to the FDTC; Get some fitness training in first and make sure your map reading skills are up to scratch".