New wing opened for air cadets

THOUSANDS of young air cadets are benefitting from a “complete training experience” following the long-awaited opening of a new centre.

Essex Wing Air Training Corps’ headquarters at Debden Air Cadet Centre has, piece by piece, been built up over the last 18 years to provide a wide range of facilities for units locally and from around the county.

The youngsters can take part in

Part-funded by the MoD and the Civilian Welfare Committee (CWC) the latest improvements on the Carver Barracks site have seen a demountable unit built to house an air rifle range and radio room, and the conversion of parts of the main building to accommodate equipment for an aerospace centre complete with flight simulators, air traffic control trainer and computer suite.

The Reporter was invited to visit the site on Sunday when guest of honour, Commandant Air Cadets Air Commodore Barbara Cooper, formally unveiled the centre.

Wing chairman Jeff Carpenter, who has been the driving force behind the project since the beginning in 1993, said: “This centre has been 18 years in the making and today I am a very happy man.

“We can offer a wide range of activities and skills that sit by our motto, ‘Venture Adventure’.

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“However, we have not yet got to the point of finishing. For example, last week the CWC approved a package for future improvements, subject to planning permission, including a climbing wall. The site we have is huge area and without limits.”

The Essex Wing ATC is made up of around 1000 air cadets, aged 13-18, and 250 staff spread across 28 units. All can use the Debden HQ centre to take part in activities – either onsite or on the barracks – parades, regional field days, conferences and training courses.

Squadron Leader Ian Woodward said: “The centre gives us a fantastic opportunity to deliver training that wouldn’t normally be available to local units.

“An average unit size is 30 cadets and four or five staff – they are not in a position to offer everything. As a wider-use facility, 1000 cadets are supported by hundreds of staff which means we can cherry-pick trainers with the right qualifications to teach the youngsters.

“People have their own interests, whether it is outdoor activities such as canoeing or aviation, and so the youngsters are supported by a wider range of personnel.”

Sq Ld Woodward added that the Wing is in a better position than ever to develop “good citizens”.

“There are many benefits to being an air cadet,” he explained. “A 16-year-old could be a qualified glider pilot and flown solo before even driving a car, achieved a BTEC in aviation or a diploma in problem solving which is the equivalent to four GCSEs. Any employer would like at a CV like that and be impressed.

“We offer a whole set of vocational skills and the opportunity to do things that perhaps they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.

“We are a uniform organisation and do a professional job with structure, order and discipline – but at the same time having fun with it.”

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FACTS about the ATC

• Has three main goals:

To promote and encourage among young people a practical interest in aviation and the Royal Air Force

To provide training which will be useful in the services and civilian life

To foster the spirit of adventure and develop qualities of leadership and good citizenship

• Is the largest single operator of the Duke of Edinburgh Award

• Sportsman Linford Christie, Geoff Capes and Rory Underwood were all air cadets