Owen Jones, from Abbey detachment, Lincolnshire ACF, says: "By the time I reached 13, life wasn’t really very interesting. I recognised my autism got in the way of me doing certain things. Then the Lincolnshire Army Cadet Force opened its doors to me in September 2013. The months went by and I started to learn more about the core values and standards of the ACF, what we do and more importantly, friendships and socialising.”
Owen was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when he was three years old. His parents were told by doctors that he wouldn’t be able to maintain friendships, relationships, education or independence. With the help of the ACF, and a love of rap music, he proved the doctors wrong.
Owen became a cadet and attended his first annual camp in Ripon in 2014, where he came away with an Army Proficiency Certificate (APC) 1 star pass.
Joining Lincolnshire ACF has made me a better person, and I am proud of how far I’ve come, and I hope my family, detachment and friends are too.
In the next few years, Owen faced some personal challenges including the death of his father in 2014, followed by a beloved teacher and close friend a couple of years later. However, with the help of family and friends, and a passion for rap music and the army cadets, he kept going.
Owen doing one of the things he loves best, rapping
In 2016 he even took time to help others by shaving off his hair to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Owen says: “I will always remember that day as the best day of my life, having my hair shaved and performing a rap raising over £660. And just when I thought I couldn’t turn my life around any further, I got my promotion to Lance Corporal on my second annual camp at Longmoor. You ask the people present in that tight little hall about my reaction; they’ll tell you my jaw very nearly removed itself from my head!
“That same year, I was nominated to lead the detachment for the Awards Evening parade, complete with a drill demonstration, in front of the dignitaries and bigwigs and my family. It was a particularly fortuitous evening and one I’ll never forget, as I was awarded the Best Junior NCO Award and my 2 star APC certificate and badge.”
In summer 2016 he was promoted to Colonel, and awarded the Lana Lou Memorial Trophy, which awards Achievement, Enthusiasm, Commitment and Leadership, and in 2017 he received the first-ever Detachment Commander's Shield.
Owen receiving the Detachment Commander's Shield 2017
"I have an amazing detachment commander in Sergeant Coulson and an adviser, friend and father figure, who has done everything my old Dad would have done, and what he himself did do; made me laugh, done things for me, helped me out when I needed it."
Owen currently studies performing arts at Lincoln College.