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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



30 November 2016

A major new resource for local young people formally opened its doors in Omagh this weekend.

The new Omagh Combined Cadet Centre which represents an investment of around £668,000, will be home to teenage members of Omagh Open Detachment of the Army Cadet Force and 72 (Omagh) Squadron Air Cadets.  It will also provide a new headquarters for A Company ACF.

The bright new facility on Derry Road in the town comprises a large assembly hall, six configurable classrooms, two lecture theatres and a large outdoor provision, plus seven offices, restrooms and stores and has been specifically designed to achieve high sustainability accreditation.  It’s all afar cry from the mix of basement accommodation and portable buildings used until six months ago, Omagh First Presbyterian Church stepped in with the generous offer of a temporary ‘home’ during construction of the new purpose-built premises.

Officiating at the ceremony to mark the opening, Mr Robert Scott OBE, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the County of Tyrone, paid tribute to the longstanding history of the Air and Army Cadet units which are now based in Omagh.  The Army Cadet Force has been in the town since the First World War, initially based at St Lucia Barracks and, since 2004, at the current site. 72 (Omagh) Squadron Air Cadets also occupied the site since its formation, initially as a detached Flight of Portadown College, becoming a Squadron in its own right in 2015.  


Above left: The Lord Lieutenant for County Tyrone, Mr Robert Scott, presents Air Cadet Corporal Sophie Montieth with her Cadet Corporal rank slides. Above right: Both cadet units form up on parade for the Lord Lieutenant.

Mr Scott spoke warmly of the positive impact which the Cadet movement has made on many young lives over the decades and thanked the adult volunteers who have committed their time, expertise and energies to help local teenagers succeed.

The opportunities for young people in and around Omagh will be considerably expanded as a result of this latest build project which was co-ordinated and project-managed by the Reserve Forces & Cadets Association Northern Ireland, as the organisation’s Chief Executive, Colonel Johnny Rollins, explains.  

He says, “Nothing dampens the enthusiasm of Omagh’s Cadets and, over the years, they have made the most of their rather cramped and tired facilities with the greatest good humour, continuing to chalk up an enviable string of achievements.  We are delighted now to provide them with the premises they so richly deserve and we look forward to being able to increase the span of activities and challenges, as we make best use of this great new set up.

“Our new building is an investment in success and it will re-energise the two units based in Omagh.  Importantly it will allow us to recruit and bring the benefits of Cadet membership to even more young people.”

Above: the Joint Cadet Centre's beautiful new sign, designed and made by a Belfast artist from 150 year old Donegal slate.

Lieutenant Andrea Kerr from Omagh Open Detachment Army Cadet Force says, “We’re all about giving young people opportunities to learn and develop with challenge, sport and outdoor activities, all provided within a supportive and friendly environment.

“While they are having fun and forging new friendships, they are generating skills and achievements which will stand them in good stead as they apply for college or university or take their first steps into the world of work.”

Pilot Officer Graham Dodds, Commanding Officer of 72 (Omagh) Squadron Air Cadets adds, “There are benefits for the whole family, too.  Providing the sort of opportunities which come as standard for Cadets would stretch most family budgets but, with us, activities are free or very low in cost.  Even the annual camp experience which is a high point of the Cadet year won’t put too much pressure on the Bank of Mum & Dad, and we even provide free uniforms!  

“Still more important, parents know that we’ll work to bring out the best in their kids, and that every adventurous activity the Cadets undertake is done with the benefit of expert tuition and under professional, and always encouraging, supervision.   This is the perfect way to prise your teenage boys and girls away from technology, replacing virtual lives dominated by mobiles and computers with active, healthy real-life adventure and new friendships.”


Above left: Cadet Colour Sergeant Rachel McIlwaine, the Lord Lieutenants Cadet for the City of Londonderry and Cadet Colour Sergeant Thomas Morgan, the Lord Lieutenants Cadet for the County of Londonderry gave a presentation on the cadets. Above right: Cadet Corporal George Donnell from Omagh Air Cadets impressed everyone with his piping.

Recruiting for new Cadets is already under way, with ‘newbies’ invited to choose between the Army Cadet Force which meets on Wednesday evenings, from 7-9.30pm and the Air Training Corps which meets on Thursdays, also from 7-9.30pm.

Both ACF and ATC are also seeking to recruit new Adult Instructors.  Colonel Rollins says, “We’re looking for men and women to join the fantastic team of Adult Instructors who already work in Omagh. We’re open-minded about applicants’ age and you certainly don’t have to be super fit.  Neither do you need to be a fully qualified youth worker or teacher: you just have to be passionate about inspiring and working with young people and we’ll provide the necessary training and support to help you become an Adult Instructor.  This is the perfect way for adults to put something back into their community.”

The move to new premises gave Omagh Cadets the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their community ethos in action.  Their old portable buildings were presented to the living history project ‘War Years Remembered’ for refurbishment and re-use.  The Northern Ireland-based charity exists to bring history to life for all generations, giving young and old a unique insight into war-time life on the battlefield and on the homefront through imaginative dioramas and community engagements.