The summer holidays are almost here and, for many young people up and down the country, that also means a return to one of the biggest highlights in the Cadet calendar: Annual Camps!
These summer getaways give members of the Army, Sea and RAF Air Cadets an opportunity to spend time away from home with their friends, taking on exciting challenges that test and develop their skills both as individuals and as teams. While training and learning are a major focus of any Cadet activity, the annual camps are also intended to be fun for those who take part.
The Cadet Force Adult Volunteers (CFAVs) and Professional Support Staff (PSS) who organise these camps want to ensure that everyone has the best possible experience from start to finish. To that end, we reached out to Lowland CFAVs and senior Cadets who have helped us put together this handy guide.
Here are our top ten tips on how best to prepare for an annual camp, especially if you’re joining one for the first time.
Read the kit list carefully: It’s such a pain when you head off on a trip or holiday and realise that you’ve left something important behind, meaning that you either have to make do without it, buy a replacement or borrow from someone else. If something is on your annual camp kit list, that means you’re going to need it, so it’s always worth checking it over a couple of times to make sure there’s nothing missing. Why not tick the list off as you’re packing?
Don’t take anything with you that you’d be heartbroken to lose: Possibly the only thing worse than forgetting to take something with you on a trip is leaving something important behind. It can be a big help to carry something with you that reminds you of home, but if losing or forgetting it is going to be painful for you, it’s best to leave it at home and rest easy knowing it’ll be there when you get back.
Show a willingness to learn: Annual camps are a learning experience in many ways – they may enable you to try a new sport that you’ve never played before, or give you a chance to test your skills as a leader in the field.
Expect the unexpected – especially with the weather: This is a particularly good tip if your annual camp is taking place in Scotland, known for seeing all four seasons in one day. If there’s a heatwave coming, make sure you stay hydrated and wear sunscreen, but also have some waterproofs in your kit because a spell of rain is never too far away!
If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it: Being able to take the lead and act decisively on your own is an admirable quality, but always remember that teamwork is at the heart of Cadet life. If you find yourself struggling, know that it’s okay to reach out and ask for help, whether that’s from another Cadet or a CFAV.
Be outgoing: One of the annual camp highlights we hear about most often from past and present Cadets is the friends they’ve made. Friendships formed through Cadets can last for a lifetime, so if this is your first annual camp, approach it with a positive and outgoing attitude and it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.
Push the boat out: This one isn’t just for the Sea Cadets! Annual camps are an adventure taking place in an environment that is challenging but also safe, so it’s a perfect opportunity to try something new.
Make friends beyond your own unit: While it’s completely natural to form close friendships with other Cadets within your own company or detachment, you don’t have to confine yourself to the unit you belong to. Cadets are so often seen as a huge family, and annual camps are a brilliant chance to meet new people who share your interests, so seize the opportunity whenever you can!
Believe in yourself and don’t give up: There may be times in training where you feel like the activity is too tough and you’re not sure if you can cope. It’s completely normal to feel doubt but it can also help to remind yourself that you’re capable of more than you might think, and you’ll feel the benefits of staying and persevering. To go back to an earlier tip: help is always there whenever you need it.
Look out for others: As well as taking care of yourself, it’s important to look out for other Cadets who may be having a tough time at annual camp. If someone asks you for help, do your best to listen to them and help them get the support they need, either from your seniors, NCOs or adult volunteers.