New CI - have some questions

Hello everyone. I am a new CI, finally got my paperwork through for dbs bpss etc and have attended one parade night so far. I now have an annoying few weeks of waiting for holiday season to finish so I can actually get started.

I’m really excited about this new chapter in my life and it’s all totally new to me as I was never a cadet. I’m now at the age where I feel settled and confident and am ready to give back to the community, while broadening my own life and building skills and experiences.

However as this is all new to me I am trying to get a feel for how certain things work, and so have a few questions.

  1. Eventually I would like to go into uniform. The reasons are varied but the main ones would be to show others, and myself that I am in it for the long haul. To feel more embedded in the organisation and to welcome the changes in outlook, confidence, discipline and deportment that comes from a military world. Also getting outdoors, building fitness and lots of other benefits besides. I almost joined many years ago but life got in the way, so I have had the time in between to work out what I really want long term and really think about it.

I have a lot of time to give and want to have the experience of contributing to young people’s lives in a meaningful way.

So yeah, question 1, what can one not do in the organisation until they go into uniform? Are CI’s and uniformed roles similar in terms of actual activities and opportunities, do you need to go into uniform to really “unlock” the organisation for a CFAV?

  1. What are the opportunities of officer vs SNCO? And what is the opportunity cost. Ie what are you giving up by making the choice of one over the other? What can officers do that SNCOs cannot and vice versa. As I understand it, SNCOs cannot be OC of a squadron, and officers cannot be in charge of drill. But what else is there I don’t know?

  2. How much of the routine parade nights activities are lead by adults and how much do the cadets run themselves, with senior cadets teaching and managing younger cadets? Is the adult volunteer job actually quite hands off a lot of the time or are you teaching most nights as a CI? At what point are you considered able to teach a subject? Do you pass an exam or get teacher training? Is most of the CI job teaching, or more like being a learning assistant?

  3. My gut reaction is to go the officer path, because that seems most naturally me. I am a people manager, and a project manager, so organising and running things is quite natural to me. However that is maybe the reason I should not go that path, at least at first. Because it is my comfort zone and I should be trying something completely different but that I still think sounds really interesting. I wonder if I can picture myself as an SNCO as drill and discipline and the formal side interests me precisely because I have no experience of that world, so it would be completely new and exciting.

So, next question. Is it better to gravitate towards the thing that fits you more naturally, or is it better to try something really new? I wondered about maybe being SNCO for some years to experience as much of the cadet experience as possible, and changing to officer further down the line if I feel I want to become more strategic and maybe run a squadron in the future. Do people usually do both in their rafac career? Or is that considered bad for some reason?

Next question, as a new CI what should I be focusing on doing to get integrated into the organisation as quickly as possible and actually be making a difference by being there, ie actually useful to the cadets. Can CI’s study the syllabus alongside the cadets or is that inappropriate? Or are you expected to cover it more quickly so you can teach it? Or do you aim to teach only the newbies of the next recruitment intake? Is there a formal path for developing into a useful squadron member? I am aware of and currently working through the AVIP.

And final question, are all courses open to CI’s as well as uniformed CFAVs? I was surprised that I saw an email the other day mentioning a shooting course that specified having to have completed the CIC. Which I believe is just for officers and SNCOs. Is this kind of requirement usual? What can CI’s get involved with in that case?

I apologies if this was too long, I have so many questions and want to get ahead before next year as I’m looking forward to getting stuck in immensely. Thanks for any help you can give or light you can shed.

TLDR: new CI with some questions about how everything works.

Welcome on board. And welcome to the forum!

I’ll try to reply to your points later, but they are all good questions.

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You can do pretty much everything as a CI. There’s squadrons with only CIs out there.

Only thing I can think of is some wing level roles (e.g. Senior Planning Officer shooting/fieldcraft) have rank requirements.

Again, very little on a day to day basis.

For me, the biggest difference is if you turn up at an event with staff who don’t know you (e.g. a summer camp) - there will be an expectation that an officer will take command, while an NCO will lead implementation and look after discipline.

This will vary wing to wing, but there is generally an expectation that officers will command a squadron at some point, while that expectation doesn’t exist of NCOs.

Neither of these are hard rules, but are the general expectation, yes. That really is about it.

This will depend squadron to squadron.

At my current squadron, senior cadets lead most activities. At my previous squadron, the staff lead most activities.

The former is generally preferred, but will depend on the number and calibre of the squadron’s senior cadets.

Adult staff tend to get more involved in delivery of advanced and specialist subjects.

Some specialisms require additional courses (e.g. first aid, shooting, fieldcraft). Most subjects require that your OC considers you competent.

If you’ve no instructional experience, I’d recommend attending a Method of Instruction (MoI) course. It is a cadet course, but swallow your pride and you’ll probably get a lot out of it (I did).

Entirely up to you. I have started out as an SNCO for the reason you suggest.

I know several that have gone SNCO → Officer.
I know no one who has gone the other way.

Nothing wrong with either, but I feel stepping down from Officer to SNCO would be considered a bit weird - you’d definitely get lots of people asking you why.

The Adult Volunteer Induction Programme (AVIP) is your next step. It will answer many of your questions, as well as ticking compliance boxes.

Yes you can. Equally, yes you can study many things yourself - find the Training Hub on SharePoint and dive in.
Unfortunately, much of the content isn’t aimed at training instructors, so you may find you need to read around or ask questions.

My key thing would be to get involved in the training programme. Ask your training officer if you can have a night to run and some hints as to where to start.

Pretty much, yes.

Which was this (no specifics, just the title)? That feels wrong. Could it be that they meant that uniformed CFAV must have completed CIC? There’s a requirement that when you start in uniform you need specific permission to attend off squadron activities before you’ve completed CIC.

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@WestlandScout I was already typing :rofl:

I’m not on my second coffee yet so you win :grinning:

Good replies, I’ll see what I can add once work emails are squared away.

I think this is so. CIs can do most courses once they have finished their initial probation but need Security Clearance for some. But uniformed staff need to complete their initial course (CIC).

The way it should work is that SNCO rank represents a host of experience (be that as a cadet, CI, ex-regular, or reservist): whereas a junior officer has been selected for their potential rather than experience.

Whilst CIs can technically do most things, there are all sorts of ways they’re treated as a second class of CFAV and certain opportunities are only open to them if there are no (or not many) uniformed CFAV on their unit’s strength.


It is fairly common but by no means essential to go SNCO then commission. Much depends on the person’s age, ambition and interests. Historically only SNCOs have delivered drill. But I say ‘historically’ loosely as of course Adult Sgts are a relatively new thing :slight_smile:

One advantage is you don’t have to repeat the basic training if you move across, now all uniformed staff attend the Combined Initial Course.

But I’d say if you want to go down the commissioned route then do that - possibly stay as a CI a while longer and do a Sqn role such as the Adj first.

You can probably do both, for example use your professional admin experience but also learn new skills.

What I would say is do some research (ask here as well) and set out in a firm but polite way what you want to do.

You are a volunteer and your time is a scarce and valuable resource. I’ve often seen new CIs parked in a corner and given bone admin tasks or tea making duties ‘while they find their feet’. Oddly they don’t usually stay.

On some units there is a culture of having to prove commitment. I’d say that the fact that you are here already proves it. So think about what you’d like to do, find the contacts who look after that area and put yourself forward.

Best of luck!


Thank you for the really great answer! It’s interesting you suggest swallowing my pride and attending an moi course, I have no pride to swallow as I will take all the help I can get, but I didnt realise that adults and cadets could take the same courses together. If this is generally accepted as normal then it could be an excellent way to get up to speed, and get to know the cadets better at the same time.

The formality on squadron is something that is new to me. My only experience of being in a youth org was scouts which was hardly formal at all (although I think it was compared to today’s standards, from what I hear). As a CI how much formality are you supposed to keep with the cadets? Is it always no first names, or is that just for uniformed staff? I know they are supposed to call you sir (or ma’m).

Thank you for your time and great response.

This is really interesting, thank you. How does one get the experience that SNCO represents if all they have done before that is CI? The worlds just seem so different that you saying this has given me more to think about. Can you study drill as a CI? Doesn’t it look and feel a bit odd doing drill with no uniform?

A lot of things have been said.

To help at 1st follow the training officer. I would say learn how to do badges, cadets love badges and if you have staff who also know what they are doing it helps enormously. There is a blue badge log book that explains how to do all the badges.
Find interesting games and activities for when learning classifications. Like time lines, films and flash cards, doing things,
Try to integrate them in with the PowerPoints as they can sometimes not be the most useful ppts and you will find yourself floundering. As one of my instructors says look up some of the old acps (online) they can be out of date, However there are things in them that arent and it fills in the ppts gaps. Like engines. They havent really changed how they work.
Good luck, have fun.

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Sorry that all got a bit confused as I thought I was replying to individual posts but wasn’t. Thanks for all your help everyone :slight_smile:

I could have phrased this better, sorry.
What I’m getting at is there are some staff who refuse to attend courses because “it’s a cadet course”, when they’d still benefit from going along.

It’s not always possible, and it’s always worth checking with the directing staff (DS) first.
Some may have you in with cadets taking part, others might offer that you sit in to observe. Some might say no, but that’d surprise me.

This’ll vary a bit squadron to squadron, but it’s generally Rank Surname between staff (of any variety) and cadets.


A long standing CI (with no prior experience) will pick up experience commensurate to SNCO status, as they are doing mostly the same roles otherwise undertaken by uniformed staff.

You can certainly study drill as a CI, and I remember being taught drill by CIs (who were recently aged-out cadet SNCOs) when I was a cadet. Personally I think it’s better to have a NCO (cadet or CFAV) formally taking drill, but that doesn’t mean to say you can’t contribute as an SME (subtly correctly the NCO, out of earshot of the cadets, if they are not following the AP). Cis can attend some drill courses, but only in the absence of SNCOs and they are not considered qualified after completing the same course that would qualify SNCOs (the same goes for officers).


Really helpful. Thank you

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Doesn’t that seem silly?

Anyone can run a unit these days, it would seem. Why can’t anyone who’s done the course teach drill?

The organisation seems as though it needs to realise that the old approach to rank no longer applies.

It’s almost like the distinction between commissioned and non-commissioned status should be done away with. You’re commissioned while holding a role such as sqn cdr, non-commissioned when not. It sounds like you don’t even do different training courses these days.


The JIs don’t say anything about not being able to teach drill: the ‘not qualified’ bit is all about pace sticks, white belts, blue sashes, etc.

Edit: And I agree, as people keep telling us the uniforms are only for dress up and to teach ranks to cadets, etc, I’ve thought for a while that everyone should be wearing the appropriate rank for their position in a model squadron: rather than having pseudo-substantive ranks and all the anomalies that come with people in positions with atypical ranks.

Sounds like a poor choice or terminology then!

In a way, it’s even more odd that you can be qualified but not go as far as wearing the rando kit a DI wear.

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Most of the idea of the “combined course” was due to the organisation having too many new SNCO’s and not enough officers. There were spaces available on the officers courses but SGT’s were waiting ages to get on a course. HQ decided through the command training centre that a combined course could cut the back log but also cut the number of courses that they need to run each year.

This absolutely makes sense.