Harriet Bowen; from Army Cadet to RAF Nurse

Harriet Bowen; from Army Cadet to RAF Nurse

18 May 2022

  • Cambridgeshire ACF

The Army Cadet Force prepares young people for a wide variety of careers through developing discipline, confidence and inspiring them with their own potential. Whilst the ACF doesn't just benefit those who go on to military careers, those who do so begin with an especially great advantage.

Sgt Harriet Bowen joined the ACF as a 12 year old in 2001, at Haddenham and then Ely Detachments. She said; ‘I didn’t know what to expect when I joined, but I benefited from the discipline and structure, we had to achieve through hard work, we weren’t spoon fed. I had to work for my rank, and it made me proud.’ By the time she left at the age of 18, she was a Cdt Colour Sergeant. Whilst a cadet, she travelled around the country, becoming part of the County Shooting and First Aid Teams. She took part in adventurous training, and gained considerable experience of leadership, growing in confidence all the while.

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As a young cadet, Harriet (end) meets HM The Queen

This useful experience included not just discipline and structure, but also specific military skills, such as drill, use of map and compass, weapons handling tests, and even knowing how to polish her boots. This all gave Harriet a considerable advantage as she began her military career.

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As an RAF Corporal with a Rapier Missile system

At the age of 18 she left the ACF and enrolled at De Montfort University, Leicester, where she studied Forensic Science having obtained an Army bursary to study. Whilst there, she continued her military training by joining the Army’s University Officer Training Corps, where she made great friends and got to take part in skydiving amongst other activities.

Having graduated, she decided to follow her long-term interest in nursing, with the Royal Air Force offering her the most interesting career paths in this field. The RAF sent her back to university, this time to study nursing. On graduation from this, she was promoted to Corporal.

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Sparring in the RAF Martial Arts Championship

Her RAF career has proved interesting and varied, having served all around the Country she spent two years in Gibraltar and then was posted to the Falkland Islands in 2017, an experience she described as; ‘beautiful; you get four different seasons in one day, and 4 different species of penguin!’

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Falklands, 2017

Harriet works in Primary Health Care at a medical centre at RAF Odiham, Hampshire. Here she deals with wound dressing, hearing and wellness tests, chronic condition management, and vaccination, keeping her extremely busy during the pandemic.

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During the pandemic, & with martial arts awards

Her successful career has already seen her reach the rank of Sergeant, and she is currently working towards a Post Graduate Certificate in Advanced Health Assessment. She plans to obtain a Master's Degree in Advanced Clinical Practice (Advanced Nurse Practitioner), and to apply for a commission.

Her sister, SI Abbie Bowen, continues to serve in Cambs ACF. Harriet credits much of her career success to her experiences in the Army Cadet Force. She says; ‘Its an incredible organisation. It takes young people who need structure and completely transforms their lives, teaching them vital skills that they can take forward into any avenue.’

Text by SI Doug Stuart