Cambridgeshire Army Cadet Force’s No.1 (Hereward) Company has risen to the challenge that the Coronavirus has created, and is using virtual meeting technology to the advantage of its cadets.
In normal times, cadets meet together once a week, where they cover 10 different military subjects, such as military fieldcraft, signals and physical training. Also included are non-military activities such as completing the Duke of Edinburgh Award, and most importantly of all, spending time with their friends. With the beginning of the lockdown, the cadets lost not only their weekly parade night, but also the important social contact and support the cadet force provides.
No.1 (Hereward) Company has nine detachments (or groups) covering Peterborough and the Fenland area. The company’s commanding officer, Major Lesley Deacon, was determined to find a way to continue to offer training to her cadets whilst they are unable to meet together physically. She also recognised the importance of keeping in contact with her cadets and hoped that keeping them interested and involved in training would give them worthwhile support and activities during the lockdown.
Major Deacon worked with Sergeant Major Pete Hockey and Major Benn Morris to set up the use of Microsoft Teams, an online live-stream audio and video hub. Major Morris, a cyber security expert who runs his own business, has created a centralised Teams account that has been “locked” to ensure that all safeguarding requirements have been met. Every adult and cadet has a unique login generated from this centralised account.
The company is now offering weekly virtual training nights that are continuing the Army Proficiency Certificate (APC) activities that they would have undertaken at detachments. Having received prior instructor training, senior cadets are then chosen to design, prepare and deliver lessons themselves. This new training enables cadets to develop new skills through making virtual presentations – skills that are likely to be in increasing demand in their adult lives.
Major Deacon said “The enthusiasm of the senior cadets who have taken to this training has been amazing, as has the dedication of the Company Headquarters team and all of the instructors who have worked hard in their own time to continue to provide the cadet experience. Because of this commitment, No.1 Company has had more than 90 cadets and 23 adult instructors taking part in the online training every week. I would like to thank my team for their enthusiasm and professionalism, especially during these difficult times.”
The cadets have been equally enthusiastic.
“The virtual cadet nights are a great way for us to interact and learn while keeping a fun atmosphere,” said Cadet Lance Corporal Mitchell Crosby.
“The virtual parade nights are a very good way to make sure that we all stay connected and learn the things we love,” agreed Cadet Cameron Whitehead.
“The virtual parade nights are a good way to interact … to deliver just as high a level of training as you would receive at detachment, and are a good way to keep in touch with friends,” said Cadet Sergeant Charlie Rice.
The adult volunteers have also benefitted from the virtual meeting contact:
Sergeant Instructor Rylan Ray praised the new way of working, saying “Microsoft Teams has proven to be an incredible resource for us to engage with our cadets and keep the flame alive. It has allowed us to provide the cadets and adult volunteers with something to look forward to in the week, offering them the chance to socialise and continue elements of their training, supporting their mental health and their personal development.”
Text by Major Deacon with PI Stuart