8 January 2018
Captain Paul Atkins Deal Detachment Commander A Coy
I was never a cadet and wasn't in the Regular Army, I joined the ACF after considering the Territorial Army as it was back in 1991, but medically couldn't join, the same reason I couldn't join regular service.
I regret not being able to join regular service, but then I probably would have missed out on the ACF which knowing what I know now would have been a great shame.
My first ever annual camp was Sennybridge 1991, when our PRO Lt Robinson did her three star and I remember being at the gate when they came back in and applauding their effort, years later I am an officer in the ACF and so is she, though I still maintain she is actually older than me.
At present I am not in fulltime employment but previously have worked in the pyrotechnics sector for security applications and the defence sector, along with retail, Mountain Warehouse being the most recent. I have also been a home-based call centre agent, so I may have rung you about PPI or insurance - I'm sorry it was a job, I currently am a carer.
My positions in the ACF have varied from when I started in 1991 at Sandwich Detachment (which is sadly now closed) where I was 2IC, I then moved to Deal as IC. I was Commissioned in January 2002 , I then moved to A Coy HQ at Canterbury, where I took over from Captain Andy Ashman, a long-time friend as Training Officer. The integration of the new Westminster system was then taking off, Andy left at the right time it seemed, things at first didn't seem to be easier, but perseverance paid off as the system is good when you get used to some of its quirkiness!
I was Training Officer from November 2009 to August 2016, then I became Admin Officer from August 2016 to November 2017, basically I swapped desks with my friend and colleague Captain William Morris, Admin Officer ended earlier than expected because of a few difficulties, this was whilst still running Deal Detachment as DC.
Being assistant shooting officer many years ago, with as is now Major Tony Elderton, was a great time, visiting Bisley for ISCRM and CADSAAM and many weekends at Hythe or Lydd shooting, these were great times. I seemed to be paired up with Tony quite a bit we ran several 1* Cadres under the command of a certain now CAA Captain Colin Harris when he was a Lt, also several NCO cadres with Tony under Colin's command.
Through the shooting side of life in the ACF being part of the teams which won several medals at ISCRM and CADSAAM, was always a high point, alongside training cadets to go shooting in Canada and South Africa, with the then recently introduced target rifle.
Until a few years ago I could recall all the camps I had attended in order, but sadly now the memory is not so good as to year and location, though I know what wood I bashed up in in 1991 on Sennybridge training area, (which is in Wales incidentally) though Major Elderton will tell you I said something different.
Highlights over the years have been vising Germany in 1997, with five other adults and 17 cadets, hosted by 2RTR at Fallingbostal , Germany, 10 days of activity hosted by our affiliated regiment was an epic adventure, we bumped into several ex cadets and Tankies who had attended camps previously.
Access to some of the most interesting camps and training areas is also a bonus the ability to see the diverse terrain and areas of nature, most non ACF personnel do not get to see, cannot be forgotten.
I received the Lord Lieutenant's Award for Meritorious Service to Kent ACF in 2014.
Through the ACF you make new friends, some stay in, some leave, some of which I am still friends with now. Some have moved to the other side of the world but we still stay in contact and they ask how's cadets and, what's changed. It's all part of being one big team and of course an extended second family with the enjoyment and training of the young people at the heart of the organisation - the CFAV's play a massive part in the young people's lives and a positive impact on the direction they will take as adults.
The ACF gives you great memories and opportunities to have fun and even as an adult still learning and the changes of getting wet, muddy and cold all part of the process, but no matter what level you get to, the most satisfying part is when a cadet sadly leaves and they say to you thankyou for everything you done for me, or an ex cadet catches up with you and reminiscences about great fun times and how they enjoyed it because of you, that is appreciation, no medal, commendation or promotion beats that. People need to remember that we, all of us, from a new PI to the Colonel are in the ACF or should be in the ACF for the cadets, not for our own agendas, personal gain or glory.
My role as Detchment Commander, as with other DC and detachment staff, means you get to meet a wide cross section of young people and they all go out the door a different person than the one who came in, be it timid, shy arrogant or cocky, the ACF caters for all and provides a program and structure which works for all if they put the effort in, this is what makes us a great organisation.
There are still things I want to do in the ACF even after all these years, the exchange visits to Italy are looking favourable, especially after hosting the Italian cadets and adults at annual camp at Knook, where they joined our seniors cadre.
Frimley Park has excellent courses throughout the year, always worth looking at.
I am proud to say I am an ACF Instructor and how the organisation really does inspire to achieve - I feel greatly honoured to be in the role and part of the ACF community.
Paul has a son Ryan who is 3* training and a daughter Gemma who is 4 * training - he also met his wife Marie through Kent ACF.