Triple Junior Leader Graduation Success
South and East Midlands Wing are celebrating three candidates graduating from the prestigious Junior Leaders course: FS Flynn from 2229 Loughborough Squadron, FS Drinkwater from 858 Rushden Squadron and Sgt Rich from 138 (1st Nottingham) Squadron.
The Junior Leaders course is designed to develop leadership and management skills in young adults through a military fashion, whilst gaining an ILM Level 3Qualification in Leadership and Management. The course takes place over 8 months and is both physically and mentally demanding, it is often regarded as one of the toughest courses for a Cadet to complete, with only 0.002% of cadets graduating from the course.
To gain a highly sought after place on the course candidates first have to pass the selection weekend. Once successful the cadets undertake 8 training weekends, followed by one consolidation weekend and an arduous 10-day test phase.
In between attending the training weekend candidates are required to organise, risk assess and run a fundraising project for the John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation.
CWO Drinkwater was inspired to become a Qualified Junior Leader when a Cadet Flight Sergeant on my Squadron completed the course (Junior Leaders Course XV). He said, “Even as a young cadet seeing how much passion he had for the course and how much it developed him not only as a person but as a leader/NCO inspired me. I knew from that point on seeing what he had achieved and what the course entailed that Junior Leaders would be one thing I would aspire to achieve by the time I leave cadets.”
“Surprisingly the most challenging aspect of the course wasn’t the 10-day test phase, which I loved, it was actually the pre-deployment weekend. That weekend was harder because of the stricter timings and the distance you had to travel for each lead. For this stage, we did 5 leads in one day, whereas on the test phase you do either 3 or 4. Along with the distance, the terrain was much harsher to transverse so your body was under more pressure than during the test phase.”
“The most memorable part of the course would’ve been we got ‘attacked’ at night. Luckily I was on Stag Duty so I didn’t have to rush around getting my equipment on for the firefight. What made that moment even better was when we saw the enemy forces in the distance, me and my fellow subordinate on Stag Duty where the ones to shout “STAND TO” and from this point everyone frantically got ready and up onto the wall prepared in a couple of minutes. Then when the enemy contacted our FOB (Forward Operating Base) it was my side that they attacked and once they attacked us the return fire volley from 61 Junior Leader students under the orders of the Flight commander and tac Sergeant was impressive. And all the whilst this was happening Pyrotechnics lit up the area creating a surreal experience that I will never forget.”
CWO Drinkwater added, “You learn a variety of different skills on the Junior Leaders course. Some of the most important skills that I’ll be taking forward is how to be an effective 2IC and how it can be easily integrated with any team whether its an NCO team or a leadership team. Also skills such as time management skills and having set drills/routines are useful, practicing them over and over again until they become second nature so you can be effective with your own personal drills. The skill/attribute of working under intense pressure whilst being assessed has made me more confident and resilient in what I do, what I say, and ultimately be more assertive.”
“If anyone considers doing the Junior Leaders Course-which I highly recommend, you need to have high levels of physical fitness, and if lucky enough to earn a place on the course keep your fitness levels up, so start now! The course couldn’t be further from an attendance course so do the homework and the ILM, practice what you have learned and actively review what you have learned in the theory lessons.”
Sgt Zak Rich was inspired to apply for the gruelling Junior Leaders Course as it is often seen as the most challenging and prestigious of all the Air Cadets courses. He said, “I have enjoyed all of the other camps and courses I have attended and really wanted to challenge myself and prove that I could complete the hardest one successfully. I also want to join one of the armed forces when I finish school and thought the course would help me prepare for my application and maybe give me a small taste of what life in the forces would be like.”
“The hardest part of the entire course was test phase due to the combination of the lack of sleep, continuous exercise and necessity for everything to be done in a tight time frame. The other demanding thing is that you have to recall on all your training from the past 9 months, this can be a method of passing information from 8 months ago or an acronym from 4 months ago, all of it is important. This being said all of the difficulties that came with test phase should be expected as it is a pass or fail test; it wouldn’t feel like such an achievement if it didn’t push you in every way.”
“For me the main memorable moment, apart from being out in the field, was the DZ parade on the last day as this was when we received our DZ patch and become QJL’s. The sense of achievement made it all worth the effort. I’ve learnt so many things over the course of the 9 months from leadership theory and how to apply that to real-world situations whether in a “military” environment, for example in the field with JL or even down at the squadron, and how to apply the same theories with a slightly different tilt to everyday practices and decisions. There is also the high level of field skills that we were taught during phase 1 and put into practice in phase 2 and 3 these are very useful things to know while out on an exercise but unfortunately don’t transfer over to normal everyday life but the thought process and skills that are behind these show a useful way to think about everyday experiences and new tasks or experiences. Finally, the most valuable thing that JL has shown me is that although tasks sometimes seem difficult or impossible, is that it is achievable with a high work ethic, determination and a good team to work with.”
“I would tell a fellow cadet that the course is an amazing experience and teaches you so many skills. It allows you to meet people from around the country who are all amazing cadets and personalities and become your firm friends. It will show you your bounds and push you every weekend. These are some of the amazing things the course gives to you but they don’t come without a lot of effort and work. The JL course takes up a lot of time both on the weekends you are away and those when you are at home completing tasks, preparing your ILM and keeping your fitness levels high. Also, you need to consider whether you can keep up your JL commitment alongside any school or college work, I found this very difficult. Another major thing that is overlooked by most is the physical aspect of the course, there is a fitness requirement before you can be accepted. To combat this you need to be all-round fit and be prepared to go away and strength train your weak points whether that is going on a hike with a backpack or practicing your night navigation skills in order to complete the 9-day test phase. JL is amazing but work and sacrifices need to be made too.”
All scenarios described are simulated with pyrotechnics, no live firing takes place during ‘engagement’ on this course.