Air Training Corps
The Air Training Corps (ATC) is a British youth organisation sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Air Force. A Full Time Reserve Service RAF officer serves as Commandant Air Cadets at the rank of Air Commodore. The majority of staff are volunteers although some are paid for full-time work. Although many ATC cadets go on to join the RAF or other services, the ATC is no longer set up as a recruiting organisation.
Activities include sport, adventurous training (such as walking and paddle-sports), ceremonial drill, rifle shooting, fieldcraft; powered aircraft and glider flying; and other outdoor activities, as well classification training leading up to a BTEC in Aviation Studies. Week-long trips to RAF stations, or camps offering adventure training or music, allow the opportunity for cadets to gain a taste of military life and often to gain some flying experience in RAF gliders and RAF training aircraft such as the Grob Tutor.
Cadet membership can begin from the start of school Year 8 (England and Wales), Or equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland. New members will join as a junior cadet (probationer) and can earn positions of increasing responsibility in a military rank structure, as well as having increasing skill and competence recognised in a classification scheme (First Class, Leading, Senior, Master and Instructor) . Service as a cadet ends at the age of 20. As of 2014, the ATC numbered 33,590 Cadets and 10,430 Cadet Force Adult Volunteers. In addition, there are approximately 5,000 civilian committee members.
Together with the RAF contingents of the Combined Cadet Force, the ATC form the Air Cadet Organisation.
The ATC is part of the Community Cadet Forces.
Headquarters Air Cadets (HQAC) is based at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. There are subordinate headquarters at region and wing levels staffed by officers of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) and civil servants. HQAC controls two Air Cadet National Adventure Training Centres – at Llanbedr, Gwynedd, Wales and Windermere, Cumbria, England. These provide a range of adventure training courses and accommodation for squadron and wing expeditions. HQAC also controls 28 Volunteer Gliding Squadrons around the UK, through the Air Cadet Central Gliding School at RAF Syerston, and 12 Air Experience Flights.
The ATC is divided geographically into six regions (each commanded by a retired Group Captain in the RAF Reserves), and each region is sub-divided into a number of wings. There were historically six wings per region, however, as of 2013 there are 34 wings, most named after the one or two counties of the United Kingdom that they operate in. Wings are further sub-divided into Sectors. And within the sectors, lie squadrons, and it is the squadron that is the focal point for the majority of members of the Corps.
ATC Squadrons are established in most large towns in the United Kingdom. There are also units in Cyprus, Germany, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands. In towns not large enough to sustain a squadron of 30 cadets, or as a supplement to an existing squadron in a larger town or city, a Detached Flight (DF) may be formed. A detached flight operates much like any other unit, but is technically a component part of a nearby, larger squadron. As of March 2013 there are over 900 ATC squadrons and 32 detached flights.
Each squadron is commanded by a Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) RAFVR(T) officer, or sometimes a warrant officer. The commanding officer has a good deal of autonomy in running his or her unit, along with the responsibility that goes with it. Where a unit has other members of staff, the commanding officer allocates duties and provides recommendations on appointments, retentions and promotions. A Commanding Officer of an ATC Squadron can appoint Cadets up to the rank of Cadet Flight Sergeant (Cdt FS)without any external influence. Further Cadet promotion to the rank of Cadet Warrant Officer (CWO) requires recommendation being sent to their Squadron’s Wing HQ.
The Squadron Warrant Officer (Sqn WO) commonly holds the rank of warrant officer, or may be a senior non-commissioned officer (SNCO) if no warrant officer is available, and will typically have spent many years working within the squadron or at least within the ATC. In the case where no commissioned officers are present, the Sqn WO or SNCO will take charge of the unit. The squadron warrant officer usually has a closer relationship with the cadets than the commanding officer.
The establishment of officers, WOs, senior NCOs and cadet NCOs is dependent on the size of the squadron or detached flight and this basic structure has many permutations – varying with the number of cadets and staff, accommodation and facilities. A typical small detached flight may consist only of the Officer Commanding and fifteen cadets and is often housed in rented accommodation. At the other end of the scale, a large squadron can consist of 120 cadets or more, four commissioned officers, two non-commissioned officers and a half dozen civilian instructors. Civilian Instructors (many of whom are retired RAF regulars) form the backbone of the ACO.