Tuesday 28th April 2009 by C. Freeman
Sixth Former Charlie Mawby has successfully passed a Leadership Training course after gruelling instruction with the RAF Regiment where he developed frostbite and strained ligaments in his ankle. Despite the physical hardships he endured, Charlie was determined to finish the course, which culminated in a week spent sleeping outdoors taking part in tactical exercises.
One challenge was when Charlie and his fellow cadets had to surround an enemy position in the dead of night. Lit only by flares they had to circle the camp to rescue 'hostages' taken by the enemy. Of 101 cadets accepted on the course, just 58 successfully passed, earning the coveted DZ flash, maroon lanyard and the Certificate in Team Leading Level 2 from the Institution of Leadership and Management; a qualification recognised by the RAF and other Armed Forces.
Since the course began ten years ago, only 400 cadets from England, Scotland and Wales have successfully passed. It is of such a high standard that it is exactly the same training that regular soldiers undertake, except the cadets don't have grenade or bayonet training. The course which is open to both air and army cadets, took place on nine weekends at training grounds around England including Catterick, Skipton and Thetford. Students undergo two phases of training in theory, navigation, leadership and field leadership skills before the final test week.
Charlie said: 'It got very in-depth. You get lots of blank rounds and you learn all the leadership, the hand signals, the manoeuvres, formations; basically living in the field. You have just one mess tin of water to boil your food, brush your teeth, have a shave and wash yourself and you just have to learn to do it all efficiently. It's all about forward planning. The whole thing is all about your team as well, I made some really good mates. If you fail your tests you leave the course.'
One of the hardest challenges Charlie had to overcome was training during the snowy weather when he had only a bivvi (small plastic sheet) for shelter, and had to sleep in freezing temperatures. He said: 'The training was fine but it was minus nine at night and we didn't have any extra kit. I got a minor frostbite on my foot. I got up in the morning and my boot and laces were frozen. I thought frostbite would hurt but it just feels like a block under your shoe. That was the biggest mental challenge I had.'
During the final test week the cadets had to sleep out in the open for six nights and the physical demands were high. Charlie said: 'On the last day of the exercise on the final attack, we'd just had our brief and were all psyched up by the officer. Half an hour into the first run I went over on my ankle and injured my ligaments. I wrapped it up with a bit of tape and said I'm not failing this, carried on for an hour then went over again. I've torn my ligaments but this qualification is what I needed and I focused getting it.'
As well as gaining his certificate Charlie was also presented with an IPod Nano as he had the highest score in an Air Power examination with a mark of 92 per cent. Charlie, who has been at 1101 Squadron in Kettering for four and a half years now hopes to have a career in the RAF as a weapons system operator on Chinook helicopters. In addition to his Squadron duties he has been chosen to represent the air cadets at official county functions by the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, Lady Juliet Townsend.
Charlie said: 'The Leadership course was one of those things that was a massive slog to complete but it's the best thing I've ever done in cadets and I really want to encourage others to have a go at it; it's the hardest, best leaders course you can do.'
1101 Squadron air cadets meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9.30. Recruits have to be aged between 13 and 18. For more information visit their website or or telephone 01536 481999.