Bullying and worse - is it to be expected as a way of 'toughening' cadets up?


Oh, I completely agree with you, it’s not just a journey for the cadet but for the NCO. NCOs do push the boundaries and I genuinely could not agree more with teaching how to do it - its an organisation where you learn all the time and it indeed holds a grand legacy which does link with my point previously on how it turns into the best possible versions of yourself but sometimes we have to go through certain “journeys” to make us into that person.


Thanks again for all your responses. One point though; The ‘wrong coloured socks’ that lead my son into being humiliated were, in fact, dark grey (his school socks). Following his initial public telling off we had already been told in our first subsequent meeting with the adult in charge that school socks were acceptable in the weekly meets, but black were required for parades. So he was towing the line for a meeting but was still picked on. UPDATE:- No response yet from Adult In Charge, but it does sadly seems at this, admittedly still early stage, that my son won’t be returning to cadets, so it’s an all-round shame that these incidents happened.


While undoubtedly this has been handled poorly, the uniform requirement is for black socks in uniform for all occasions. Squadrons may allow leeway (on a few things, not just socks) because we realise that there are various factors involved but it is best to get into the habit of being correct all the time so we are less likely to slip up when under closer scrutiny.

I get round it by only owning black socks (apart from a couple of specialist pairs) but of course that doesn’t work if the school mandates something else.


Black socks, pink or gray. I have to admit for me it’s not a big issue when the cadet joins and is learning. Only in the last few weeks I had a cadet with ESN wear one school shoe and a parade shoe did I make a big deal of it no I dint . What shocks me most is this cadet and his family are not getting due process, by now I would of expected the OC or an Adult to of spoken to him . It’s a shocking day when we lose a Cadet more so a Cadet who is newly in and is very much in the learning stage of everything ATC. Shame on those who the buck stops at.


I’ve only worn black socks for donkey’s years.

I have some specialist socks … with various cartoon characters and one pair that even under trousers need sunglasses!!

Don’t wait, go and see him without your son in tow.

What this bloke needs to realise is that if you speak to other people as I imagine you do and the ATC comes into the conversation, it won’t be in a good way, following on from this experience, which has the potential to damage the squadron.


I won’t drag out any reply all above seems far better worded advice and opinion and knowledge of the system but I would weigh in as someone who was a fan of a good bit of ribbing and banter, there is a fine line between banter and bullying. It depends on the person, the situation and the time.

Same goes for discipline, there’s a time and place and correct way of offering discipline and leadership, humiliation and belittlement is not correct discipline.

Bullying is not leadership.

But let’s not forget the Cadet NCOs are kids too and require leadership themselves. They need to learn aswell. And they might make some mistakes along the way.


On this point at some point as a parent you have to administer tough love and sit down and have a real heart to heart about how the world really is. My dad did it with me and in those days it was more just get on with it, sink or swim. My dad’s advice was avoid the nasty ones and if you can’t, be around them as little as possible.

My eldest daughter is and was slim and still complains she doesn’t have a ‘figure’, her sister has a ‘figure’. Ironically though her sister and her friends are envious as she can get away with wearing things they can’t. Can’t please some people!! It can’t be that bad though given the string of boyfriends she’s had and the latest looks like becoming something more.

When the eldest was at school, she got ribbed by girls and boys alike. We spoke to the school and they did what they could, but we (more so my wife) sat down with her and explained that sometimes as you go through life you will get things like she was going through, even in adulthood. It’s not pleasant, but you have to get through it as life isn’t always strawberries and cream.

Similarly our son, was picked on and the same chat was had.

As a parent you do have to let go and be what might be regarded as hard on them.
They all made to be adults and seem as well adjusted as anyone does.


Fixed that.

No cdt NCO is 100% perfect.
Nor is any member of staff.


Bang on.


In this case the Cadet NCO’s appear to be well over the line, however as has been said they may well be new to the role and learning themselves. This sort of thing SHOULD be solved with a bit of verbal guidance,all recorded so that if it continues more serious action can be taken.

Something to take into account when looking at the speed these sort of things get dealt with is that the Adult Staff are still volunteers and although as a parent this is the most important thing going on for you at the moment (and rightly so). For the volunteer who is doing 3 jobs at the Squadron as well as teaching, having a partner, kids and a real job that pays the bills they may have to prioritise what they are dealing with on any particular night. (You would hope this comes at or near the top but there may be other things going on, although if that was the case I would expect at least a courtesy message of “we are looking into it please bare with us”).


The points in the second paragraph aren’t even recognised by some Sqn Cdrs (of the other staff on the squadron) and Wing Staff and they are volunteers themselves, so expecting a parent to understand the situation all / many of us find ourselves in from time to time, is stretching it a bit.

You don’t want to make excuses for people, but like every one of us, not many really know what we are going through outside the Corps and how it affects us mentally and emotionally, which impacts what we might be doing in the Corps. Mind you we can always go NEP, which is the solution to everything. You have to wonder if all staff took NEP (rather than just keep going) when life hits a ‘rough patch’ how many actual ‘active’ staff there would be at any one point.

However this situation is one that could have been sorted in one or maybe two parade nights.


We have, unfortunately (although probably inevitably), had to deal with issues relating to bullying and other serious allegations on the Sqn. For us (as far as the OC and Sqn NCO are concerned during parade hours), the world has mostly stopped beyond the minimum amount of admin in order to deal with them.

We aren’t overflowing with staff, but that’s the way it should be - for the benefit of all involved and to prevent any further incidents or anybody leaving prematurely with a marred memory of their time with us.

Also, for this to be a problem with a CWO… outrageous that they’ve been allowed to progress that far uncorrected with such an attitude.

Shame on the staff, I say.


It fits in quite well with my opinion and experience with CWOs. Bad attitudes, chip on their shoulder, holier than thou attitude. Sooner they get rid of that pointless rank the better.

I have only met 2 decent ones. And they were good eggs regardless of rank.


I’ve seen a few good CWOs but I have also seen bad ones and even more ineffecual ones.

Yes, it is all about the person behind that rank. I have no issue with the rank itself but the criteria used to justify it needs a lot of work. As a reward for the real shining stars it is still worthwhile but only remains worthwhile if you don’t hand it out as a pity prize for simply being older than the other cadets.


I don’t think CWOs are any more bullies than any other cadet NCO and actually no more bullies than cadet NCOs ever were.

I think however the problem stems from the Adult WOs, some of who have no idea how to speak to youngsters as they seem to think they are in the RAF and need to be total sphincters, and seem to take their role model as being a cross between Sgt Major Williams / Gunnery Sgt Hartman. Cadet NCOs see this sort of idiot and emulate them. I told our then WSO that I never wanted to see a sector WO on my squadron again, as their attitude was appalling and had no place in the Corps.

The problem with CWO is that since 2003 is that it has lost its inherent seniority / experience, as the upper age dropped to 20.
CWOs were always cadets who had a lot more experience, knowledge and ability and with the upper age at 22nd birthday there was also the age gap, which meant an emotional distance from the other cadets. Since the upper age dropped, CWOs do not have these factors, which affects them IMO in how and what they do.

I’m not sure it’s a ‘pity promotion’ it’s a complete the tick box exercise. There does seem to be a trend towards 19 year olds getting put forward for CWO because they are 19, to ‘encourage’ them to not leave. I’ve had a couple of 19 year olds come to me asking to be promoted to CWO as their mates were getting promoted and told them, no, basically as I’m not sure what difference I would see in them in the 2-3 months they would have the rank . I’ve seen youngsters with Crown and Laurels who wouldn’t have got close to it years ago.

I thought we should have lost CWO and reduced the maximum cadet age to 18, on 30 Sep 2003 when the LASER Review came into effect.


I don’t think anyone said it was a CWO who was the problem?


aircadetnewbie’s second post states it’s a newly promoted CWO.


Ah yeah, missed the updated post.


Hmmmm. Personally I think there is a place for CWOs but they need to be far more than a fully-badged-up FS to make the cut. The CWO is the interface and this needs maturity, balance and presence rather than volume; cpls shout, SNCOs scare and CWOs convince. Sometimes this comes as a bit of a shock for the more ebullient FS who seems to think it is their right to be promoted to CWO on their 18th birthday.

My experience of RAF SNCOs is that they are far more balanced, astute and managerial than some of the RAFAC SNCOs I see. Fortunately, in my Sqn the adult SNCOs earn respect of the cdts.

PS. Sector/Wg WOs with sticks do my head in, especially when they start hunting in packs.


As for ATC SNCOs vs RAF SNCOs, I would agree. But it is a chalk and cheese comparison.
SNCOs in the RAF/forces are trained professionals doing a job for a number of years and have accrued the experience etc to be seen as worthy of the rank. I tend to see WOs in the forces on a par with senior officers in terms of running things. Nearly everyone I know who has been in the forces has said the “WO” knew more about how things worked etc in the job than the Officers and were good at helping and giving advice and effectively ‘trained’ the junior officers on the job. How I wish it was like that in the ATC.
The ATC by comparison we have this boot camp mindset and as such the organisation will continue like a permanent 1950s conscription basic training unit. As such the ATC is stuck in a mobius loop.

I ensure that all of our staff are engaged in the squadron and when I’ve had more than one SNCO they all do a bit of everything. I used to have WO who would do little more than drill/discip and stores and hated it when I told him he was teaching classifications and that he would be taking over DofE and gave the stores to a CI to run.