16:27 Wednesday 11 December 2013

It's a cadet's life for Burton youngsters

Written byLAURA HAMMOND

ANYONE who wandered into Burton’s TA centre on a Monday evening may be a little perturbed by what they encounter.

They will be greeted by a group of almost 50 youngsters tackling any number of activities, ranging from orienteering, shooting in a rifle range, and even using a flight simulator.

These are the members of 351 (Burton on Trent) Squadron ATC, and they are making the most of the opportunities which are offered to them, both whilst they are indoors and when they head out into the wider world.

Squadron Adjutant Richard Smith said: “The Air Training Corps (ATC) is affiliated to the Royal Air Force, and that carries certain benefits, but we are not just about aviation and aircraft. Here at 351 Squadron, we have an active adventure training department with rock climbing, canoeing and hill walking all just a stones throw away.

“This is what it’s all about - activities that offer challenge, excitement and adventure and the knowledge you pick up along the way through structured lectures and first-hand experience.”

There are currently 49 youngsters on the books for the Burton squadron, all aged between the ages of 13 and 20, who meet at the TA centre for weekly sessions, and represent the organisation at events in the community.

Members of the group are often seen out and about on official business in the town, with recent occasions including the Remembrance Parade in Burton.

They also helped with the Poppy Appeal, selling poppies in Coopers Square to support the Royal British Legion.

The ATC is a national organisation, which has been running in one form or another for more than 150 years.

The first cadets came about when schools around the UK began to organise units of armed, uniformed adults and older boys who would be able to protect Britain in the case of attack from overseas.

By the start of the 20th century, there were more than 100 of these units, and, in 1908, they gained the title Officer Training Corps (OTC).

The organisation has evolved over the years, but still sticks to core values of offering young people useful skills which they can take forward in life.

Youngsters heading to 351 squadron can take part in outdoor pursuits such as camping and adventure training, and flying is part of what it’s all about. With gliding and pilot training navigation schemes par for the course, there is plenty for young people to get their teeth into.

As well as fun activities, Mr Smith was keen to pass on the fact there are also opportunities for learning within the organisation.

Those who join can get involved with the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme, leadership training, BTECs, and City and Guild qualifications, to name just a few.

“It’s all there for you,” Mr Smith said.

More information about the unit is available by visiting http://www.351atc.org.uk/.

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