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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



28 September 2016

Even the picturesque Wicklow Mountains can seem cold and bleak when you are tramping an 80 kilometres route … as Army Cadets from 2nd (Northern Ireland) Battalion know all too well.

The teenagers have just successfully completed a gruelling expedition as part of their preparation for the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. The four day challenge tested their physical fitness as well as their fieldcraft, navigation skills and, occasionally, their sense of humour.  The Cadets were weighed down by heavy rucksacks packed with camping equipment and supplies as they trudged through rain, wind and even hot sun … it is Ireland, after all. 

Expeditions in the great outdoors are just one element of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.  Those who go for gold must also undertake a substantial period of voluntary work within the community and successfully complete a demanding physical fitness programme and a week-long residential course.

Colonel Keith Dowell, Commandant of 2nd (Northern Ireland) Battalion Army Cadet Force, says, “It’s by no means for the feint-hearted, but the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme offers some amazing opportunities to young people and it’s something which we encourage our Cadets to undertake.  Added to the countless accomplishments they will attain through Cadet membership, DoE awards are fantastic self-confidence builders and earning a bronze, silver or, ultimately, a gold award is also significant evidence of commitment and success.

“We understand that, as they compile their personal statements to enter third level education or take their first steps into the world of work, young people need to be able to demonstrate tangible achievements.  We therefore work hard to provide our Cadets with the experiences, achievements and confidence that will help them to stand out from the crowd.”

Delighted to have completed the expedition element of her DoE quest for gold, Katie Vernon, from Portadown Detachment and pictured above, said: “It was tough, but we had a real sense of achievement when we finished … even though we felt like we could sleep for a week afterwards!  We get to do some amazing things in the Cadets and it has been fantastic to be able to work our way through the DoE Awards, particularly as it costs so little to do within the ACF. I love being challenged and that’s what the Army Cadet Force is all about!”

William Robinson, also from Portadown Detachment and pictured with Katie, agrees.  He says, “Joining the Cadets is one of the best things I have ever done.  I’ve had great fun, made some incredible friends plus I get to do the sort of sport and outdoor activities that most of my mates would have to pay a fortune to try!  The adventure element of Cadet life is what appeals most to me.  Even when the going gets tough – when you’re scared to tackle canoeing or abseiling or whatever – there’s always someone to give you a hand and have a bit of a laugh as well. I’d advise anyone who has ever thought about joining to stop thinking and join right away: you’ll be glad you did!”

Pictured below, Christopher Brown (17) and Joseph Armstrong (18) from Ballygowan Detachment Army Cadet Force:

Also enjoying the weather, below, is Sam Davison from Ballykinler Detachment Army Cadet Force: