Do we do enough for potential officers?

It occurred to me that whilst the military have a distinction between Officers and ORs, at cadet level we do not.

We provide one syllabus which provides for some leadership and debate etc, but very little in the way of ‘officer qualities’.

Could/ should RAFAC and other cadet forces ‘stream’ potential officers and provide greater leadership and officer centric training?

I’d be happy if they provided any officer centric training.

The 5 days on OIC doesn’t do anything to prepare you for a role on a squadron. And any pre-OIC training is just about getting you through OASC which, again, doesn’t bare any resemblance to air cadet life.


I actually meant in order to prepare cadets for roles as officers in the forces, but yet equally valid to training for commissioned CFAV

We’re not the people to do that. We’re not qualified and, as I mention, we don’t have the training. We’re also not a recruitment organisation.

We give them some basic skills, and the opportunities to show their potential, that’s all a candidate needs if they wish to go to OASC and join. And the number of cadets who are successful would suggest we do this well enough already. Half of my IOT were ex-Air Cadets.


I’d respectfully disagree. One of our aims is ‘ Provide training which will be useful in the Services and civilian life’

Useful, sure. But not a direct lead-in.

And my point is that we already do. The training and experiences we already provide are perfectly suited to gearing people up to it. And I talk from personal experience.


The ACO does provide training that’s directly applicable/useful for those seeking and training for a Commission in the forces - it’s just that people like to over-complicate things.

The fundamental things that will get you through the factory are a real grasp of the truth of leadership is blokes first-self later, integrity, basic map reading, and having been cold, wet and hungry but still cracking on.

The rest is flim-flam.


Darling, take a note of the word ‘Flim-flam’. I like it. I want to use it more often in conversation.

But, as ever, spot on Angus. Anything over and above the basics is noise.

RAFAC gives people an insight. Nothing more, nothing less. The skills we deliver will help people understand the roles within HM forces, gives them an idea about where they could go and helps build the very basic skills necessary to get into the AFCO and not be a Dilbert.

Let Sandhurst train people how to chop; it’s what they’re good at. Let us focus on giving people some fun experiences and positive juju - it’s meant to be what we’re good at.


All of the youth organisations should give young people “fun experiences and positive juju”. Last time I checked we were in a sort of blue uniform and people join with that as a basis and an interest in aviation; joining the RAF as an Officer (and maybe Pilot) and going to RAFC Cranwell (Sandhurst is for Army types) is a goal for many.
I was one of those, a long time ago, doing 9 months on the Officer Initial Training Course before becoming an Acting Pilot Officer RAF. Despite being a real swot of a cadet (CWO, Flying Scholarship, 6th Form Scholarship, Commendation etc (you bored yet?)) I was totally unprepared for it. The Sqn OC had been a WW2 Short Stirling Pilot but his Officer training has been very different and of no relevance.
Since then I have successfully mentored staff members progressing (although the current RAFAC is an insulting joke) and cadets looking to get a regular commission and in my view the answer is that no, the Air Cadets as a whole does not do enough for potential officers, it is left up to individuals with the relevant experience (and apologies, but 5 days at OIC is not) to help where they can.
Maybe we should ask why there are so few ex regular officers in the RAFAC? I know the answer but would be interesting to get views

What do you expect the air cadets to do?

Yes, those of us with RAF experience can use this to help us, but the overwhelming majority don’t have that, and we’re not recruiting people with the expectation that they’re at the standard of DS for either Cranwell or Halton.

The RAFAC syllabus now is light years beyond what I did as a cadet 15-20 years ago and, certainly in terms of leadership, prepares a cadet far more for the tests on IOT. Which is, really, the only thing we can do. Uniform and drill should be par for the course, but beyond that… What are we going to teach that could be ‘expected’ of junior officers?


It’s about mindset. I’ve heard RISE is due to change, in the parent service at least, but it’s a good place to start. If we can instil or more likely reenforce those values, along with a sense of self discipline and self respect, it goes a long way.
Probably more important and more useful than DST calculations or how to bull a toecap.


It would be useful if some of the people who are actually in the RAF and supposedly lead us had heard of RISE, before we try and instill it in our cadets. A bit like the tail wagging the dog.


It’s probably easiest to break down ‘stuff that helps’ in to two separate buckets:.

A) experiences that tell you whether you enjoy leadership/management, and whether you might be any good at it.

B) skills you’ve learnt, and experiences you’ve had, that make life easier when faced with the initial shock of Cranwell/Sandhurst/Dartmouth/Lympstone.

If you’ve lead a group of cadets on a DofE or whatever trip across Dartmoor in the emphasis rain, you’ll have worked out whether you enjoyed leadership or not.

If you’ve handled and fired a rifle you’re one step ahead of many of the other officer cadets - it’s not a shock, you’re not frightened of a rifle, you’re not going to start flapping about how loud it’s going to be or what the recoil is going to be like.

If you’ve spent the night out in the open, and just cracked on with the days task, even when your clothes are wet, then you have a massive advantage over other candidates - for many this comes as a huge psychological shock the first time they do it, and it’s usual for a number of Officer Cadets to bin it that morning.

The biggest help the ACO gives is in laying these foundations - each ‘new experience’ that isn’t new to you allows you to concentrate harder on the stuff that is new to you.


The training is there, what it isn’t is consistent across the country. Personnel is only part of that, resources are the big thing. And that’s where the air cadets as a whole could help.

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We don’t have the time, resources, or skills, to specifically target kind of PIOT audience - nor do we really have a large enough suitable demographic to warrant it (and public will to accept it alongside “we are not a recruitment agency”).

But almost everything we do will lay foundation stones - some larger, some small - that will give anyone going to Crantanamo or the land of “what makes the grass grow?” for real a small advantage over those who go in from outside.

Some things will need relearning to account for simple differences, some will need upskilling because our time and resources don’t let us achieve the same standard, and some things will be completely new.

But a cadet who knows how to use an iron, where the creases go, and is used to bulling will find uniform prep easier despite being hammered over the standard more. A cadet who can get 5 rounds on a piece of paper without crying will do better at weapons skills because they’ve been there even if they have to improve some, but will get the additional time on the range needed - and they’ll be spending less time thinking about “magazine off, bolt open, breach clear, bolt forward, fire action, SAFETY CATCH… DUST COVER” and focus on actual marksmanship.

Drill - maybe up standards, but skills and acclimatisation are there.

Cold/wet/hungry - ft/DofE been there and done it.

Even planks and barrels. Very basic principle and a simple scenario, but having worked in those conditions, and been assessed in those conditions, will take some of the pressure off.


I don’t feel I’m overstating anything as I admit that some things are a smaller advantage than others. But when you consider that someone could arrive at the gate in a suit with none of those experiences and pass the course… What more do we need to give that’s advantageous?

Only so much of what you need as an officer can be learned, and I’m sure a natural aptitude (and a willingness to take personal responsibility for any development needs) for what counts as “Officer material” is going to be far more valuable to the forces than if an organisation was to start churning out “fully coached” candidates with the ability to pass IOT but then potentially be useless beyond.


I think this sums it up neatly.

Firstly we’re a youth organisation
Secondly a training organisation
Third a “military themed” organisation

in that order.

Other than helping Candidates in the first few weeks/initial stages of training I am not sure what we as CFAVs be that ex regulars or otherwise can do in 5 hours a week.

One occasion i felt low about my CFAV time i happened to come across a ex-Cadet recently graduated regular. I asked if they felt their time as a Cadet helped, they said yes absolutely and restored some faith that not only was i making a difference, it was helping an area important to me

Some time later a close friend went through Halton, I kept in touch throughout the process week by week and at the end of it asked the same question, they said “barely” and didn’t feel there was a great advantage to being an ex-Cadet. this got me thinking and i could see their point.

As a ex-Cadet they already knew about uniform, how to wear it and care for it (ironing/polishing), they knew much of the General Skill Knowledge (GSK - ranks, structure of the RAF etc*) module of the training and had little trouble picking up the bits which were new. When it came to shooting, again another area that was straightforward having achieved a lot in shooting before, and having enjoyed fieldcraft was happy with these elements just taking a step further in a military environment and scenario rather than Cadet-friendly ones

In truth, as indicated by @Giminion, if those who aren’t Cadets can walk in to an AFCO and pass through all the application stages and then initial training, what does the RAFAC need to achieve? the RAF has set up a course (airman or officer) that allows trains candidates to pass - yes there maybe certain advantages to being ex-Cadet that aid picking up the early bits, and means while non-Cadets are learning everything/doing things for the first time, ex-Cadets can concentrate on the 20,30, 40, 60% that is new to them…

now, on the flip side, i was on an annual camp at a phase 2 training station and recall being told that those candidates who were Cadets in the past were on average more successful at staying the course (not necessarily top marks, but just got on with it) and in the four-man rooms the station tried to organise it so there was an ex-cadet in each room as that improved the success rate of the whole course. I guess in this regard what the RAFAC does is build an appreciation for teamwork, and some team leadership in helping those who have less experience or competence in a task

If the RAFAC did more it would distract from what we already do (see the top three lines, namely youth organisation first). To have any value it would end up being all we would do, and in return would aid candidates take a significant shortcut in the RAF training (which i understand post 1945 occurred for a some years) but would need CFAV to be at RAF standard of instruction - which we clearly aren’t, and a lot of auditing to ensure that this backdoor/shortcut entry to the military is still offering all the required training.

*although some of this is tested at the AFCO stage so perhaps all we do is get them through the AFCO bit?


I’d be very surprised if the RAF, or indeed any of other services would want us to attempt to do any type of pre entrant specific training. They have a set way of delivering it in a set manner, which is basically designed to work for any entrant who has met the entry criterion. The last thing they would likely want is an ex Cadet swanning round thinking they know it all.

Where we can of course be of benefit is to help them develop general skills before entrance to make the individuals life easier, things like uniform upkeep, basic drill knowledge, helping to develop the right mindset and attitude, and hopefully give them experiences that will help, for example DoE expeditions and other similar activities that help build strength of mind and character. This of course will benefit them whatever career they choose.

We also rightly pride ourselves on not being a recruiting apparatus or training organisation for the services, but instead giving young people an opportunity to sample this but provide them skills for their future. I feel we would put ourselves in a very precarious position if we started offering formal pre entrance training in my view.

And why change? Granted there is a lot we can improve internally, but I see so so many younger entrants to my industry who are ex Cadets, (of all flavours I must admit) who are leaps and bounds ahead of their peers who were not Cadets. Would we be in a small way robbing society in general of these people if they were out off joining the Cadets because they saw it simply as a pre entrant training regime?


precisely - and my bold - is why ex-Cadets are advised to keep their heads down and not mention being an Cadet for as long as possible. Yes it will on the records and the Staff will know, but don’t draw attention to it!

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The thing that strikes me with this is that for probably 70 years the things we do haven’t been targeted at any sort of skipping service training. Yet in that time we have had countless young men and later women join up be that OR or Officer and gone on to be successful in their job, but then so have many, many, many more who have not had any sort of contact with ‘cadets’.
Do we need to do anything special no, because as said we are not ‘equipped’ to do it and whatever we have been doing has been working for youngsters across the employment spectrum.
For me the 2 youngsters I recall most vividly were 2 who were not the best cadets by a long chalk, but each of them thanked us for giving them the confidence to apply for and just get jobs, nothing amazing, not in the forces, just jobs, so they could earn a few quid. For one of them just putting down the scant things he had done in the ATC, got him the job as his schooling wasn’t that great. I’ve bumped into one a couple of times, the last time he was managing 2 shops, married, children and doing quite well for himself. We can’t take credit for it, but it’s nice to think we helped onto the first step.
It’s kids like this that we can have more of an effect on than all the whizzy badge bedecked ones, the latter will have got on in life without the ATC.

Agreed, if the RAF wanted us to provide a pre-commissioning course I would suggest that they should provide it.

It could be run once a year possibly as a Senior alternative of ACLC aiming as FS and CWO only and it could be staffed and delivered by regular RAF personnel specifically to prepare the top Cadets for Commissioning. It could also be fully funded by the RAF.

If such a thing were wanted or needed I suspect they would already be doing it.