Berkhamsted Air Cadets has been in existence since 1941 and has had many commanding officers. Presently, the squadron is headed up by Flight Lieutenant Chris Brooks RAFVR(T). There are other members of staff as well and, collectively, have made our squadron one of the most active in Herts and Bucks Wing. There is also a civilian committee (chaired by Mr Mark Kendrew) which is made up of parents/ex-parents and local people, their role is to raise funds for the running of the unit.
As a squadron, we pride ourselves on getting as many cadets as possible through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme but it is not compulsory, but many do take the challenge. Expeditions are organised within the squadron with other units and there are many opportunities to complete the volunteering, physical and skill sections of the scheme within the Air Cadet training syllabus. Volunteering especially as local organisations, such as the Royal British Legion, Rotary & Lions Club all welcome Air Cadets to help them in important events such as Poppy Appeal, Fireworks events & Local Fetes.
It wouldn’t really be the air cadets if there wasn’t any flying involved. Upon joining the cadets you become eligible to go on air experience flights in a Grob Tutor with a fully licensed pilot. Once you are more confident in aerial manoeuvres such as the loop the loop and barrel rolls, you will be able to go on and complete the pilot’s scholarship course. You can also fly some of the corps Vigilants which are powered gliders. Here you can continue your basic aircraft handling and from there you can go on to achieve the gliding scholarship.
Whatever classification you are as a cadet, you’ll have the opportunity to do target shooting. From the basic scorpion air rifle, to the bolt action No.8 to the semi-automatic L98A2, you can shoot inside or out in ranges between 5.5m to 300+m. Gaining marksmen’s and competing in shooting competitions are a way of gaining prestige in the air cadets and two things Berkhamsted squadron has a very good history of! Shooting can also be used as a skill for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.
More academically, the air cadets also offer BTEC’s. The most popular are the BTEC award in aviation studies (equivalent to 2 GCSE's), music (equivalent to 4 GCSE's) and in public services (equivalent to 2 GCSE's). These are a perfect stepping stone for a career in or out of the forces and the courses also include professional CV preparation, interview techniques and adventure training.
This is a very important part of being a cadet, and one which we take very seriously. All cadets and staff are trained to a minimum of ‘heartstart’ level that allows them to provide a potentially life saving service. Then, cadets are able to go on first aid and activities first aid courses which are normally conducted over a weekend that normally provides a much more detailed approach to treating anyone who could be suffering from a heart attack, major bleed or inhalation of toxic substances, as well as a lot more.
Spending a week on an RAF station at a low financial cost is one of the must-do opportunities on offer. At a camp, cadets will live the military life that will challenge them but also offer all the enjoyable aspects of that the cadets have to offer in just one week! Camps are held all over the UK, and also abroad. Cadets come from many squadrons from around the Wing which allows some great friendships to be made. Aside from shooting, doing night exercises, flying, touring the station, there is also the chance to fly in military aircraft. This is a wonderful opportunity as civilians will never have the opportunity to fly in some of these aircraft whilst they are in service. Many cadets from Berkhamsted have experienced this by flying in Chinooks, Merlin’s and Puma’s but by far the best thing they all appreciate was the great food that was served in the Mess!