RAF WARMA Two Day Cosford Marches
So what is Cosford?
Apart from the fact that Cosford is a town and an RAF camp, the name probably means very little to most people, but to youngsters in cadets the name resonates with the seeds of terror, carefully sown by older, more experienced cadets. Cosford, and the Nijmegen 4 Day Marches, are considered synonymous with sore feet, blisters, exhaustion and pain - lots of pain! Road marching may sound easy but the old hands know that it is anything but.
The RAF WARMA (Royal Air Force Walking And Road Marching Association) 2 Day Marches based at RAF Cosford, and the Nijmegen 4 Day Marches held later in the Netherlands, are considered the ultimate test of fitness, determination, courage, teamwork and mind over matter.
Road marching tests a great deal more than mere physical fitness. If it was merely a matter of being fit almost anyone could walk 50 miles (80 kms) in two days or 107 miles (172 kms) in four, but many people find it very tough to achieve these sort of targets.
What the entrants need is what the Army Cadets excels at; preparation, planning, training and teamwork. Emphasis is also placed on the natural links between this event and other aspects of the cadet's life, in particular their involvement with BTEC, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Cadet in the Community, progressive physical activity, practical leadership, resilience, teamwork and independence. Core aspects of both events are teamwork, turnout, spirit, good manners and a willingness to help others.
It is important to point out that the training prior to the events is not designed to break cadets, either physically or mentally. Young bodies that are still growing do not take kindly to the sort of serious physical demands that road marching can cause. So the training is tempered by a great deal of caution and close observation by the Directing Staff (DS). Cadets are instructed in depth on what sort of clothing, socks and boots to wear. How much water to drink and when. What sort of food to consume; how much and how often. What sort of medical kit they should carry. They are told in no uncertain terms that they must only use their own first aid kit on themselves - nobody else - ever! The risk of infection from using another competitor’s first aid kit is emphasised strongly.
At the core of the training is the building of a strong team spirit. Each team marches at the speed of the smallest, slowest team member. Cadets who struggle are, if their problems are not seriously physically threatening, encouraged along by their team mates. It’s all about the power of mind over matter. The older the cadets the easier it becomes to overcome physical suffering and push through the pain barrier. However, for younger cadets there is a marked reluctance by the DS to let them push through this barrier as it risks causing further damage to their bodies. Age and experience will harden and temper them; there is always another year to try and achieve their goals, but if the body becomes damaged that may not be the case.
For all entrants, cadet and adult alike, completing Cosford is the first goal. Without completing the march within the stated time they will not be allowed to enter the Nijmegen 4 Day Marches. If they can’t complete two days of marching they are very unlikely to complete four.
Historically, Somerset's Army Cadets have always trained hard for the marches and as a result have always done exceptionally well. More information can be found on the official web site.