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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



14 March 2019

When it comes to hobbies, sometimes mother really does know best. That’s certainly the case for Anne Curry from Coleraine. 

For 12 years she has devoted much of her free time to working with the Coleraine Squadron of the Royal Air Force Cadets, initially volunteering after her middle child, Mark, joined the Squadron as a Cadet. Having seen the fun her mum and brother were having, Anne’s eldest daughter, Laura, was quick to follow.  Youngest sister, Rebekah, could hardly wait to reach her thirteenth birthday when she could officially join the busy 2350 Coleraine Squadron, with mum, in the guise of Flying Officer Curry, as her Commanding Officer.

Laura, now 27 and Mark 24, both completed lively, achievement-filled Cadet careers while mum was an Instructor and, Cadet Warrant Officer Rebekah McFetridge is following in the high flying family traditions.  Although Rebekah, 19 and a language student at Queen’s University Belfast, is approaching the end of what has already proved to be a hugely successful Cadet career, she has been inspired to plan ahead for the future and fly higher still. The gifted young musician has combined her love of music with her passion for the Air Cadets and is setting up a Northern Ireland Wing Air Cadet Band.  Just like mum, she will be encouraging young people to do something special with their spare time.

Rebekah has long been a stalwart of Northern Ireland’s Tri-service Cadet Band and her talent as a flautist recently earned her a place on the prestigious Army Cadet Force Music Director’s Course in Scotland.  Not only was she the only Cadet from the Air Training Corps to clinch a spot, she also earned the Best Cadet award … and used the opportunity to turn her long-held dream of creating a Northern Ireland Air Cadet Band into a reality.

After delivering a persuasive business case to the Officers’ and Squadron Commanders’ Conference late last year, they immediately agreed to support her proposal.  Now, with support from several staff members, and interest from 60 cadets to date, Rebekah is set to pilot the project.  She says, “I still can’t quite believe it’s all happening, but of course I am delighted. Making the formal proposal was quite daunting, but one of the best things about being in the Cadets is that you are always encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there … so I did just that, and the result is a great new venture which will enable Air Cadets in Northern Ireland to develop and showcase their musical talents!  “It also gives me the chance to put into action my mum’s philosophy of trying to ‘put something back’ into an organisation which has given me so many incredible opportunities over the years.”

For Rebekah, those opportunities have included everything from tackling the notoriously gruelling 4-day 100 miles Nijmegan March to serving, last year, as Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet for the County of Antrim.  This summer, Rebekah is also due to travel to Canada to take part in the annual International Air Cadet Exchange Programme.  Anne says, “Obviously, just like any proud parent, I have been delighted with everything that Rebekah has achieved and continues to achieve through being an Air Cadet, and the same goes for her brother and sister before her –  knowing the opportunities and benefits open to all young people who become an RAF Air cadet, makes me passionate about recommending it to other families.   “From the young person’s perspective, we provide the chance to enjoy a massive range of sports and outdoor activities, some of which, as you would imagine from the Royal Air Force Cadets, have an aviation based theme. Our Cadets also learn new skills, many of which lead to nationally recognised qualifications.  Most importantly, we teach them the skills to grow as individuals, developing confidence and self-esteem, helping them build long lasting friendships. “Many parents are quick to see these benefits and understand their value, particularly when it comes to supporting their children compile Personal Statements for entry into university or college or taking their first steps into the world of work. They are also glad to see their children ignore the digital world for a while and tackle real life fun and adventure in an environment which is safe, inclusive and well supervised.

The attractions of the organisation may be obvious, but why would a busy mum like Anne choose to get actively involved when she could simply hand her teenage kids over to someone else and kick back with a magazine and the remote control?  She laughs, “I occasionally ask myself the same question, but being an adult instructor in the Air Cadets watching my own children came through the ranks has been a great experience.  Traditionally, many of our adult volunteers are drawn into the Air Cadets because they see how it develops their own teenage children and they want to be part of that.  Not only does this benefit their own family, but it also benefits the wider Causeway Coast and Glens community.  This is a fantastic way to connect with young people and their energy, enthusiasm and sheer sense of fun is immensely rejuvenating.  Although as adults, we get just as much out of it all as the young people do and I would recommend volunteering with the RAFAC to anyone who wants to stay young at heart!

Anne says, “Rebekah has had a fantastic Cadet career and I have been so lucky to share it with her at close quarters. It has given us a whole new take on ‘mother daughter bonding’ opportunities, although I am sure she must have found it a bit disconcerting at times to have me around while she’s enjoying fun times with her friends. However, to Rebekahs' credit, she has always understood that, at Cadets, it’s ‘Ma’am’, and not ‘Mum’....."

For information visit call 02894 452023 to find out more. There’s no need to make an instant commitment, but a visit to a Squadron Evening is the perfect opportunity to check out life with the Air Cadets.