What it means to me being a female Cdt Sergeant Major!

This year we’re celebrating 40 years of females being able to join the Army Cadet Force (ACF). It’s a milestone which should be acknowledged because its not really that long since we have been allowed.

10 August 2019

For me, it’s interesting to talk to CFAV about when they were cadets. Some of the instructors can even remember that point 40 years, when the first wave of female cadets and instructors were introduced into a male dominant world.

Thinking about it, it must have taken a lot of bravery from those first few females to take the step and start to change the way the Army was perceived – I guess liken to a modern-day Suffragettes movement, equality for men and women. And it’s only right that as a female Cadet Sergeant Major I carry on paving the way to show females what they are capable of and just how much they can achieve.

It’s so normalised now, that around 30% of cadets and CFAV’s in the ACF are female. It’s easy to feel like you belong and have a place, which is amazing to see, especially when that percentage is growing year on year.

Being a female Cadet Sergeant Major is not only just a great position to have, as it shows I have worked hard, being successful and can lead. It’s difficult in the ACF to gain the rank of Sergeant Major, and it’s a real privilege to say I’ve overcome so many obstacles to be the best cadet I can be.

My journey to get to the position I am in has been anxiety filled, I’ve had a complete lack of confidence in myself from the beginning. If it wasn’t for the inspiring female role models that guided me through my cadet career, I wouldn’t have the mind-set I now pass on to my cadets Both male and female, senior and junior.

It’s important to me I pass on what I have learnt, as a leader I want to lead from the front and say to my fellow female cadets that its ok to struggle, its ok to have confidence issues, its ok to step out of your comfort zone…in the ACF you will have someone there to support you, someone to listen. This organisation will help you group in confidence and help you succeed. I hope that cadets will follow in my footsteps in the future, like I have done with those who led the way for me.

During my time in the ACF I have attended so many difference cadres & courses that cover the APC Syllabus and more that are not. I would advise everyone, take the opportunity to attend as much as you can. It not only gives you a wider understanding, a bigger knowledge base…but you get to expand your friendship network by meeting new cadets and have the opportunity to share experiences. I personally sometimes had this nauseating feeling going to some camps, it comes with having anxiety. I’ve been worried I haven’t been up to the task or being physically able to complete the course…but I have!

There will be times you have to push yourself mentally, physically and emotionally to get the job done - but in the end it is a lifetime experience you’ll always take things from to use in the future in normal life away from the ACF.

That’s what I think it means to be a Female Sergeant Major. It means that you’re constantly pushing forward to achieve, even if it’s hard to keep up. It’s speaking up, asking ‘why?’ and saying ‘yes’ to things you wouldn’t normally say yes to, and its being a role model …and inspiring others to succeed and making your mark. I’m proud to have made mine.

Cdt Sgt Maj Emily Haigh.
Humberside and South Yorkshire ACF