9 October 2020
Cambridgeshire ACF produces an impressive number of ex-cadets who have gone on to great success elsewhere. One of these is Private Henry Bird who has received the award for Champion Recruit at The Infantry Training Centre Catterick.
Private Bird served as a cadet at Walton Detachment 2015-18, during which time he was extremely successful, becoming a Master Cadet and rising to the rank of Cadet Company Sergeant Major. Private Bird is very positive about his cadet experience, sighting many great and inspirational experiences, especially the Senior Cadet Instructors Cadre course and Master Cadet Cadre. He said; ‘Being able to challenge yourself at that level and then come back to your detachment to share what you've learned with others is definitely one of the best things about it.’
Pictures courtesy Henry Bird
Former Detachment Commander (now 2 Coy Training Officer) Lt Kate Blundell noticed him as an outstanding cadet and took an active interest in his development. She explains; ‘I watched him transform from an awkward young boy into a well-respected senior NCO, and I am not surprised he has made Champion Recruit. I recall giving him the opportunity to prove his integrity. We had two cadets, non-related, called Bird. I had been handed an item of value from a weekend camp, which was annotated with the name Bird, which belonged to the other cadet. Henry admired this item and even more so as it had his name on it. I gave it to him and said; ‘this is your integrity we are testing as I give this to you to return to the rightful owner’. Henry realised what he should do as an individual, albeit the other cadet had no knowledge that his item had been found. As you can imagine at the age of 15, Henry considered the options, and using his integrity, returned the item to the rightful owner. This is just one example of watching him develop and aspire to be the best by using the values and standards of the ACF to make him who he is today. He has a great future and I am very proud to have been a small part of it.’
Private Bird recognises the effect ACF adult instructors have had on him and their contribution to his success. ‘All of the leaders of Walton Detachment guided me and helped me develop through my time in the ACF, in implementing not only the Army's core values and standards, but also general life values and lessons like kindness, generosity and cheerfulness towards adversity.’
In 2018, Private Bird left to become a student at The University of Wolverhampton, studying for a degree in War Studies. With the support of his University, he became a reservist in the Mercian Regiment. He said; ‘I joined the Army Reserve in 2019 as part of my university degree, but I've always wanted to serve in the Infantry in some capacity be it regular or reserve in order to have that element of challenge and adventure. The British Army does amazing work around the UK and across the globe, and I've always wanted to be part of that. It's filled with some of the best people the UK and it's Commonwealth allies have to offer, being able to work alongside them is a joy in itself.’
The coin presented to Private Bird for being Champion Recruit. Picture; Henry Bird
He completed the 3 week Phase 1 basic training at Grantham, before going on to Catterick to train and qualify as an infantryman. He found the course challenging, but incredibly worthwhile and exciting. He felt the best part of course was the final week-long field exercise.
‘The Final Exercise was on the training area around ITC Catterick, it involved all the components of Infantry Platoon Activities from ambushes, raids, deliberate attacks, defences and how to operate in harbour and FOB (Forward Operating Base) conditions. It was challenging because if you're not used to working in those conditions it's a bit of a shock to the system, but the training team put in a good physical and mental build up during the course. It built us up from individual skills, so that by the end of the exercise we were working as a coordinated infantry platoon.’
Whilst army training has continued during the pandemic, the virus has been taken extremely seriously with facemasks and social distancing being enforced throughout.
At the end of the course, he was awarded ‘Champion Recruit’ by the Company Commander as his performance during the training was judged to be the best out of the 40 soldiers present. Private Bird intends to pursue a commission in the reserves, and is looking forward to a career in the Civil Service.
He is in no doubt about the contribution the ACF has had to his life.
‘The ACF laid the foundations of hard work and enjoyment of passions, a constant pursuit of self-development, and encouraged me to thrive in teamwork. These skills and lessons are valuable in any walk of life, not only military careers, and I hope those in the ACF now can enjoy what it has to offer in the same way I did.’
Text by P.I. Stuart, County P.R.O.