Today has been a busy day for County and Company HQ staff, putting the final touches to the training program, having last minute conferences and preparing Zoom links. Our social medias have been full of previous year's travelling and arrival pictures, creating the feeling of a virtual coach trip. Whilst we may not all be able to be together physically this year for Annual Camp, we will still make it the fun experience all of our cadets and instructors know and love.
At 19:30 the Commandant addressed the County. She began with how her opening address would usually be on a parade square, with everyone fresh off the coaches and tired from their journey. Obviously this year was very different, with many faces watching her from living rooms, bedrooms and studies. However, the remote nature and home comforts didn't mean standards had been relaxed. Everyone was still smartly dressed in their uniform.
The Colonel spoke of the face to face interaction that we have all been missing. The sporting competitions than haven't gone ahead this year. Also of the achievements of the Corps of Drums and their various events that have been missed, including playing at The Menin Gate. But rather than dwell on the negatives of missed opportunities, she spoke of the things have we have done during locking down and the unique opportunities this has given us. In her presentation she had pictures of the cadets in uniform on their doorsteps doing the NHS clap and the Cadet salute on April 9th. Of this, she said "Many of our amazing CFAVs and your parents and families are key workers and have done an amazing job and it was an honour for us to thank them".
Continuing with our lockdown achievements Colonel Barr-Jones spoke of the support shown by cadets to Sir Tom Moore on his birthday. The VE day tributes in which many of our cadets and volunteers held their own celebrations in their gardens. The Royal Signals 100 years challenge which B Company made an exceptional contribution to, and the sterling efforts of the cadets with their entries into The Commandant's Challenge. She then mentioned the numerous virtual promotions. Notably the handover from Cadet RSM Berry to Cadet RSM Kornilaki. Also the handover of Lord Lieutenant Cadet from Cadet Staff Sergeant Chambers to Cadet Sergeant Lambert. In her role as Lord Lt Cadet, Cdt Sgt Lambert has been attending virtual meetings with the Lord Lieutenant Jennifer Tolhurst, and looks forward to supporting her in person when this is possible.
The Commandant acknowledged how difficult it has been in recent months, referring to the values and standards which is a core part of the ACF. She said "During difficult times is when we stand out by our values and standards - show the courage to do the right thing and the discipline to stay active and alert". Then continued with "Show the respect for others, especially when all living under one roof and the integrity to do the right thing even when no one is looking". Finishing by saying "Show the loyalty to check in with all your friends and family and the selfless commitment to help everyone you can, especially at home, whilst saying safe and abiding by the rules".
There was a guest video from W01 Lightfoot, RSM of CTC Frimley Park. He said how the senior cadets and instructors of Essex have held "impeccable standards" and been "a pleasure to teach" on their visits to Frimley Park in previous years. There was also a video from the ACF champion Big Phil, he said how there had been "massive changes since I saw you all at Pirbright last year". And he encouraged the cadets of Essex to "keep being extremely cool getting involved in things".
The Colonel reminisced about the highlights of last year's Annual Camp, including the visit from the BFBS ice cream van on the Commandant's day. As well as the many VIP visits, such as when Big Phil came to camp, as he referenced in his video. She continued on to outline her intentions for the year to highlight diversity and inclusion, "My vision is to run a vibrant cadet force, accessible to all young people in Essex and to build a fully supported and inclusive environment, fully engaged in the community it serves".
Speaking of this year's virtual Annual Camp the Colonel gave a brief run through of the program, mentioning some of the "over 50 sessions over 9 days" that will be on zoom. Some of the highlights being the Commandant's Camp Out plus guest speakers from the Royal Artillery and Royal marines among others.
The Commandant noted that whilst this unusual Annual Camp would be the first for the new cadets, it would also be the last for the senior cadets. But it would be a unique camp for all cadets and instructors alike to remember. Recognising the events that senior cadets have missed in their last year through the current situation, the Colonel hinted at plans for a County event to celebrate the achievements of all of the senior cadets who have "aged out" during this time, once such an event is possible.
In her closing words she said hello to the cadets who have been able to join us in Annual Camp whilst on their holidays in places such as Turkey and Mallorca. As well as the adults who were watching on their breaks whilst at work.
This year will definitely be a unique experience for all to enjoy. Despite the change in how this year's camp will be delivered, we will still be providing a round up of the day's activities on here as usual. Keep following us to find out how virtual annual camp is progressing.