To say that the Cadet experience is ingrained into Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI) Leeann Conroy’s DNA is a massive understatement.
Having enjoyed the Cadet programme as both a Cadet and a Cadet Force Adult Volunteer, SMI Conroy has seen what both sides of the Cadet movement has to offer. Not only that, but her passion and dedication to the cause saw SMI Conroy receive a Lord-Lieutenant’s Certificate of Meritorious Service on Monday 7 November from Lady Susan Haughey CBE, His Majesty the King’s representative for Lanarkshire.
With such an impressive career to look back on and many more adventures to look forward to, Lowland RFCA were pleased to sit down with SMI Conroy and hear her story.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name’s Leeann Conroy and I’m currently the Trainee Sergeant Major for the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Army Cadet Force.
How long have you been with the Cadets?
I’ve been involved with them for over 24 years now. I started out as a Cadet in the Falkirk Company at Denny Detachment when I was 13, and I stayed with them until just after I turned 18 – I went from being a Cadet to an Adult Instructor overnight! Since then I’ve moved around and seen a lot more of the Battalion which has been great.
How does it feel to receive a Lord-Lieutenant’s Award?
It’s so overwhelming, I can barely put it into words! I’m not used to prestigious awards and events like this so it’s beyond amazing for me.
What was your reaction when you found out you had been nominated?
There was a definite sense of disbelief at first. I remember seeing the announcement in my emails and thinking, ‘Wait, that can’t be right! That’s not for me!’ I was so surprised that I ended up sending the email to one of the other CFAVs just to make sure I had read it right!
What was it that inspired you to become a CFAV after you aged out of the Cadets?
I really wanted to give back to the Cadets after everything I had gained from it. The Cadet Forces are like one big family with lots of aunties and uncles who are always there to help you whenever you need it. I’ve also gained a lot of lasting friendships and life skills, and it means so much to me being able to inspire and support the next generation in the way that I was inspired, it’s my biggest passion without a doubt.
Is there anything you’ve gained through your time in the Cadet Forces that you wouldn’t have been able to gain anywhere else?
I’ve certainly gained a lot of great life skills, and leadership skills in particular. A lot of the values and standards that I hold in my daily life probably wouldn’t be to the standard they are without my Cadet experience – honesty, integrity, the full Cadet ethos.
Apart from receiving a Lord-Lieutenant’s Award, what has been the highlight of your time with Cadets?
There are so many highlights, it would be hard to choose just one. I was once a Drum Major, and I was also the third ever female to reach the rank of Sergeant Major within my Battalion as a CFAV. It’s not the case anymore but at the time I was also the youngest person to reach Sergeant Major. There has also been my KGVI (King George VI) leadership course, which was a full week spent at Frimley Park Cadet Training Centre. There was a lot of intensive training in how to take people out on exercises, how to handle ammunition and how to make sure the standards of ‘safe person, safe place, safe equipment’ are always being followed.
What’s your advice for anyone thinking of becoming a CFAV?
Don’t think about it, just do it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I would never dream of looking back or giving it up.
What’s next for you to look forward to?
At the moment I’m a part of the Battalion Training Wing, so I’m now looking at the Forecast of Events for 2023 along with the Battalion Training Officer. I’ve got a couple of adult training weekends and a JCIC (Junior Cadet Instructor Course) coming up in December. After that we’re looking at a recce in January for our annual camp.We’ve got a lot of the next year planned out already and there’s a lot to look forward to.