Joining at 15yrs old, Year 11

Hey everyone. So basically I have a bit of a concern regarding the fact that I’m in year 11 and just joined. I joined my squadron in September which was also the start of year 11, as I’ve been thinking about joining for a while. However, now I’m concerned that because my gcses are this year I’ll miss out alot on activities and chances the air cadets may bring. I love being a cadet, but I fear I’ll become one of those 18yr olds that is still a cadet. I would like to be a corporal before im 18 as well, would that be possible?

People that have done their gcses, did you have to miss out on a lot of parade nights and consequently miss out other opportunities? Or is there a way to go around this? After all, its just 6 hours a week plus extra activities. But then that sounds like a lot of revision time gone. In need of a friend

Our Sqn has had a fair few 16 and even the odd 17yr old join in the last 6 months. They love what they do and wish they had joined sooner! But the main thing is they are getting stuck in, obviously they won’t be able to make every parade night but they often attend more than the younger cadets who cry off saying they aren’t well. We have had Cadets age out at 18yrs old and loved what they got out of their time. You won’t be the first or last Cadet who ages out a Cadet.

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All of my answer below come from my own experience. Each Squadron is different and acts in its own way, so take advice from all who will reply to you.

In terms of missing out on opportunities the only thing that will hinder you here is that there are certain parts of training you need to have done before you can do certain activities. A lot of activities require the First Class Classification and you missing that classification training may well have an impact on your eligibility.

Saying that however, you are joining at a slightly older age which if anything should work In your favor in regards to the above. Talk to your OC about your concerns and they hopefully will not have a problem with you self studying the First Class Syllabus. You will still have to pass some tests and tick some boxes but hopefully your OC will be able to come with a plan to accommodate you.

Again with promotion to Cpl before 18, because you are that little older one would hope you are more mature then those 12 and 13 year olds you may have joined up with. Take in all the training, be mature and ask for advice from the Cadet NCO’s. There is also many threads on what the criteria are for promotion to Cpl on this website so please take a look. Work hard and I can’t see there being any reason why you wouldn’t be able to make it to Cpl before 18.

When I did my GCSE’s oh so many moons ago I only missed a parade night when I had an exam the next day. This was a personal choice however and everyone is different. Take as much time as you need to do your exams as your education must come first. I cannot stress this point enough as believe it or not, one day a job will become more important then cadets. I unfortunately did not realise this until after my GCSE’s and I reckon I could have gotten better grades if I had spent less of my time with the cadets in my GCSE years.

Like I say, take advice from all who reply as every Sqn in the Corps is different. I am on the move so can only give you some brief advice!

Welcome to the Corps! Work hard both in the Cadets and at School! All the best for a great cadet career!


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Ok so it’s 20+ years since I did my GCSEs, but I don’t recall having missed any parade nights back then - we paraded Monday and Friday though.

As has been said above your added years should mean maturity which will stand in good stead when it comes to promotion. Good luck with both exams and progression !

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I joined at 14, nearly 15 and got CWO on my 18th birthday. As above, I didn’t take much time out for exams as imo you need a good work/life balance. Regardless of what age you join at and what stage of school, put 100% into it and you’ll love everything you get out of it. Rank isn’t everything, it’s a small aspect of many within the organisation.

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My mate joined in September at the start of Year 11 and is already a Cpl. Time there doesn’t really matter as long as you’re good I guess.

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Thanks for all the replies. This does somewhat make me less anxious about being an older cadet.

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How long did it take for him to become cpl?

Well from September till last Friday

No way, it took the corporals in my squadron two years

It all very much depends on your individual Sqn’s situation, however that is definitely a shorter time than average.

As I said above, please bear in mind there’s so much more to the ATC than promotion.

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I started at the exact same age and time of the year. Until GCSEs were over I didn’t particularly do many events outside of cadet nights to ensure that I didn’t spend too long away from my school work. I loved cadets so much that I refused to leave during my GCSEs. I always made sure that I timetabled my revision around cadet evenings allowing for that to be my break from revision. I ended up doing quite well in my GCSEs and after them began to participate in more events. I do think there are so many advantages to joining that bit later as it allowed me to settle in a lot quicker. I really think you don’t need to worry about being an 18 year old cadet as you still have 3 years to get a rank. (I got promoted to corporal tonight so maybe this time next year it could be you)

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for what it is worth i started at 14 and 9 months, but was very much the “old” one in my intake of 13 year olds.

do i wish i started earlier? for sure.
but i made the most of my time, i gain Bronze DofE, and my Gliding Scholarship wings (Silver), gained many other skills and awards, taking part in plenty.
i was a Cpl in 2 years, and Sgt 9 months after that, another 12 months i was FS.
I never made it to CWO, my staff asked me only two weeks prior to my 20th birthday, which at the time meant i was leaving at 20 rather than sticking around until i was 21 (had i gained CWO).

but they raised CI paperwork, and have been staff ever since.

my experience is 6 months earlier than the original poster, but would it shouldn’t put anyone off. yes it means there is less time, but doesn’t make that time any less enjoyable or worthwhile.

to rephrase a well known quote about love:
better to be have been a Cadet for some time, than to have never been a Cadet at all (and then regretted it!)


Thank you. I’ll for sure remember that quote the next time I doubt my age. That would be relieving

Everyone’s pretty much already said the same things that I would have said - except the old ATC mantra… Cadets is like being sick - you get out what you put in!

So long as you’re old enough to get stuck in, put your hand up when opportunities come along that you’d like to to grab.

Manage your time wisely. Focus on exams, but use Cadets as a healthy way of taking time out and enriching your teenage years.

Badges and qualifications show skills and what you “can do” - promotions reflect on you as an individual - how well you manage yourself and others.

Opportunities will always come when they’re deserved!



I’ve heard the phrase often enough, but never with that preface. :smiley: