Formality on Sqn

Firstly, thanks to all who have answered my bone questions. When I’m in a position to look at volunteering (next year, give-or-take), I’ve decided I’m absolutely going to commit my spare time to the organisation.

In the mean time, another bone question…

Where formality is concerned, my memory of cadets was that things were pretty rigid and very much like a Ph1 training environment. While this was good for maintaining discipline and dress standards, when it came to engaging with staff, I now see how it could be very sub-optimal, particularly if you’re dealing with cadets who are under confident (or your senior cadets, who should be more like staff).

I was wondering if people could describe where they put the line, and why.

For example, I’d have nothing against my referring to cadet NCOs by their first name and not insisting they stand to attention whenever talking to me. Having visited my (current) local CCF, I’d probably also try to avoid this freezing the room in place every time a commissioned officer comes in business too.

Basically, I’d want to treat them like post-Ph2 service personnel, trusting that the adult relationship I inculcate will form the correct behaviours (because I essentially want them to learn how to engage with adults without being consciously aware that they’re kept on the back foot by unnecessary formalities). All the discipline etc would be there, but there’d be a more natural engagement with members of staff.

Bonus question: would going for this level of formality risk causing my future cadets trouble when they then have to engage with other CFAVs beyond the sqn?

Is there a set level of formality expected by the corps that is non-negotiable?

Thanks, once again.

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It varies for Sqn to Sqn and there’s time for rank usage & times for not, mainly dependent if other cadets are present or not.

However all Cadets (certainly all non-staff cadets) should always refer to staff as Sir/Ma’am etc & not by first names.

This is for safeguarding reasons & puts a natural barrier between adults & cadets & stops friendship becoming too chummy at an inappropriate age.


Very valid point.

To clarify, I meant being less formal in that regard down the chain, not cadets using first names with staff. Agree with you there.

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Back when I still ran a Squadron I had no time for the calling rooms to attention rubbish, if you are busy teaching a lesson carry on.

I expected people to come to attention if they were coming into a staff office and to salute if an officer was present.

Terms of address varied depending on who it was and the situation:

Staff in front of the Cadets we would use rank/Sir/Ma’am, staff in the office would use first names/nicknames.

Cadets and Cadet NCO’s we would use rank/Sir/Ma’am.

Staff Cadets doing a Staff role I would treat as I would any other member of Staff. I have no issue with my CWO Adjutant calling me by my first name when we are working in the office together. (I was pretty strict on who Inlet stay past 18 and in reality of you weren’t at least a Sergeant your Cadet journey was ending at 18.)

How does safeguarding in schools and non-Cadet organisations possibly cope when everyone is calling each other by first names all the time? :scream:


Schools almost never allow students to call teachers by first name - maybe in sixth form but not before.

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My school certainly did in 6th form and in Sports

But PE teachers aren’t really teachers. What’s the old saying?
Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach PE.

goodness me bringing the room to attention every time an officer walked through/puts their head in the door?
no chance!

In all the units I have been on, the class is brought to attention at the beginning and end of the lesson when the instructor arrives and when dismissed (for break or final parade) - not every Tom, Dick and Harry!

As for standing to attention when speaking to staff, i am with daws - stand to attention at the office door, salute as appropriate and come in asking to speak to X

The only time that shouldn’t be the case is if the cadet is receiving a proper dressing down. If it’s just a normal conversation or even a minor telling off, then relax.


My personal approach, as an SNCO, has been to treat the cadet SNCOs as though they are my peers (first names, nicknames, etc.) and rank and surname (trying to avoid surname only, as I think it’s rude) for JNCOs downwards.

When it comes to staff, I use sir/ma’am for officers and WOs (I don’t know any RAFAC WOs well enough to be on first name terms) and first names for SNCOs. I’m used to working with civil servants and contractors in my reservist role, so I interact with CIs as I would with them (first names, sir/ma’am if known to be ex-officers/WOs, Mr/Mrs/Miss/Dr/etc.)

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I agree that surname-only has always felt jarring and rude.

I think that’s my main motivation for moving to first names with more senior cadets. It feels like a more respectful way to address them, and takes “arms length” and dials it down a bit.

Using their full rank and name then has extra weight when you use it in front of their juniors.

Never hurts to prove you actually know someone’s name either.

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The other thing to consider is the individal cadet.

When I was a cadet NCO, I hated anyone calling me by my first name at cadets. Many of the cadets were friends and I wanted to draw a line, so it was always that they called me by my rank at the time.

On two seperate occassions, a uniformed member of staff called me and another NCO bu our first names and so in kind we responded using their first name. The response was as expected “please do not use my first name, use my rank” to which both of our responses were, “we have worked hard to earn our rank, call us bu ours”!

Seems very petty but as a Cadet NCO, I was really proud of my achievements and wanted to be addressed by my rank even at the age of 20!!!

Now, staff can call me by my first name when cadets are not around but I have made the concious effort to have a clear devide between CFAV and Cadets regardless of age. Sir/Ma’am, rank or Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms etc is used around cadets. I will always call the cadet NCOs by their rank and I often call the cadets Mr or Miss [surname].


When I was a cadet my best friend and I called each other by our surnames and each others’ parents followed suit.

It wasn’t normal and I wouldn’t encourage it.

I disagree slightly as it’s quite common in military organisations as well as some schools.

I did a team building task once with the whole Sqn & threw in a limitation of cadets could only refer to each other by their first name - the look of mass abject panic was quite amusing.

I think it comes down to the individual & what people are comfortable with - the surname thing does differentiate us from scouting & other youth.groups so I think it can be a positive.

OP, this is something I struggled with going from SI to CFAV. Cadets aren’t (largely) adults and they certainly aren’t service personnel so you can’t treat them like they are.
Surname only is rude, I personally hate being addressed by my surname. I address cadets as Mr/Miss SURNAME or by their rank. I’ve now noticed that cadet NCOs are now doing the same which is a nice bit of formality even if a bit old fashioned.
It’s a tricky balance as the young people need/want formality and structure but as other posters have said being overly rigid isn’t helpful or inclusive either.


When I was at school it was pretty usual even for non cadets to use surnames.

There are a few times that I would call a cadet by their first name, only in private!

  1. A welfare chat
  2. Senior cadet or NCO actually working in the office
  3. An informal email
  4. Sometimes on a phone call depending on the context

Except for a welfare chat, that first name is an earned respect, so not all will ever get it.


It’s very normal, we even see it at work with couples who refer to each other by surname.

It’s very common, regardless of cadets!

When I started secondary school, my very first class had 3 boys with the same Christian name as me. From literally that first day of school, we each became known almost exclusively by our surnames. Several teachers followed suit. It wasn’t until yr10 that some of my friends learned my first name!

That had zero to do with cadets or the wider military.

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We try and keep it “semi formal” at my place.

Me and staff are addressed by our ranks or sir/ma’am as appropriate by Junior NCOs and below. I was addressed as “staff” before being promoted. Senior NCOs and staff cadets do in front of cadets but in other settings it’s first name basis.

As a disclaimer, we have a few SEND cadets. And according to their plans, the structure is good for them.


SEND cadets?