Why do you _actually_ volunteer?

Spurred on by this, I’d like to ask a question I’ve been pondering for a while…

Why are you a CFAV?

Yes, we all know the stock answer. “We do it for the cadets”. And that’s great! But for most I suspect it’s also the shallow answer. What motivates you to spend hours planning a night’s activities? Or to get through the heaps of admin for a weekend away? What’s going to make you come back, even after months away?

Perhaps it’s the smiling faces. Perhaps it’s seeing cadets progress and become more confident. Perhaps it’s learning new skills yourself.

Respectfully, I’d ask that we keep this thread more positive.
If you’ve left, or you’re thinking about leaving, that’s fine - I’m sure we’ll hear (or have already heard) from you in other threads as to why :slightly_smiling_face:

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This organisation is a huge part of who I am today.

When I joined at 13, I was quite a nervous character and never really excelled at extra curricular activities. I always did well in school but football I was hopeless at playing, karate I couldn’t do etc etc.

Through the staff team that I knew as a cadet, I became a confident and outgoing individual. Someone that flew a plane solo before driving a car. Someone that became a leader of others. I became a mentor to others. I found the enjoyment in bringing out the best in others - this was all as a senior cadet NCO.

My squadron staff team did an excellent job in giving me some vital skills that I would need in life and my role as a CFAV.

Frankly this reply isn’t doing it justice. I think if I could just give a little bit back then it’s all worthwhile. Now that’s also quite cliche, so I’ll add that I am proud to wear the RAF uniform and I am proud of my cadet forces commission (yes I said it). I enjoy my hobby and it gives me something other than work and family life to focus on that is for me.

Obviously I could list more but that’s it in a nutshell for me.


Ex cadet. Joined as a CI and never really left. Moved around a bit but spent a long time at one squadron. It was that sqn that cemented my commitment. Having seen cadets join and flourish, run squadrons themselves and just generally being good people it’s a privilege. Feeling like I’ve had a part to play in shaping young people is worth (mostly) all the rubbish that gets thrown your way.
What I do like (and miss currently) is getting excited about doing things. The cadets are what make turning up, or tuning in, each parade night worthwhile!


Cadets saved my life when I was a teenager and built me into a confident adult. I loved the activities I did and want to provide that to other kids.
But on top of that I still enjoy many of the activities we do and being a CFAV gives me the chance to do them. I also get a real selfish buzz from seeing a cadet achieve something or grow into people I would hope my kids will grow into. Knowing that I’ve played a part, however small, in that development makes me proud.
I fully accept that many of my motives come down to selfish reasons.


Might have also got some useful qualifications on the way too if I’m to be much less altruistic!


Well, as someone lucky enough to have had the “proper” gliding & flying scholarships, 3 x Cadet 100s for shooting + camps + lots of flying (AEF + RAF aircraft), the overall experience undoubtedly helped get me into the RAF.

I really enjoy being a CFAV, my main motivation is “pay back” time.

There was one shining example - a cadet whose turn had come for AEF, but approached me to say that they were scared to go, never been flying before. They listened to some (gentle) persuasion & also had some peer interaction so went to the AEF day. When watching them being kitted up, I even refrained from telling any gory war stories. :wink:

I escorted the cadet out, it was still touch & go if they would get in the Tutor, but they did.

About 30 mins later, I went out to bring them in after the flight. The smile was one that you could use for any recruitment poster, & they couldn’t stop talking (positively!) about the experience, even on the drive back to the sqn. It also boosted their confidence no end. That one smile was worth all the paperwork / hassle!


No paragraphs necessary.

Why for me.

To make a difference.


I guess this is sort of what I’m getting at. I think many of us have “selfish” reasons that are why we actually volunteer. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing - that’s what motivates us to get through the boring bits which let the exciting bits happen. It’d suggest it’s healthy for us to talk about them more often.

I think this, for me, is one of the biggest things. Being a CFAV gives me a focal point - something to break up the weeks and look forward to / get excited about.


I can’t remember who said it not so long ago in this forum, but someone said they’re more inclined to find it strange if someone says they’re in it just for the cadets and the cadets only.

Frankly we all have our own reason which may be selfish by definition, but that doesn’t make them wrong, as long as someone is pulling their weight and the cadets are benefitting - who is bothered?

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Was a cadet

Tried to leave by getting into RAF

Shattered my knee cap pre Crantamino Bay so was told to jog on.

Tried to leave cadets at 20

Was told no need to swap CWO for Sgt tapes

Then it became a normal part of life.


I am an ex cadet and remember the things I did as a cadet and how I was inspired.

For me now is the cadets. Watching a cadet d something for the first time. Having a cadet come up and say thank you. Hoeing a cadet come
Up and say you’ve made the camp for them. Working with a remarkable group of teens who surprise you every day. Seeing them leave and come back, following dreams to become pilots.

If at least 1 of them can feel
Inspired as I did all those years ago then I have given back.

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Bit insensitive under the circumstances…

I’ve written a reply to the main question about three times, but while I feel what I am trying to say is positive everything I write sounds incredibly cynical. If I manage something I’m happy with then I’ll come back.

At this rate it will end up being a bullet list…


Ironically I can run further than I could then… Just no where near the required speed


Being a cadet that was a CWO acting almost as a staff member anyway, it was just a formality to go from cadet to volunteer in that I was already volunteering.
Why did I stay?

  1. As it had become normal to spend two nights a week and almost every weekend away from home. Stopping had never crossed my mind.
  2. When stopping has crossed my mind, I’ve remembered the positive effects that I’ve been able to have on so many young people.
  3. Keeps giving me something to do week in week out (pre-covid) that isn’t just eat sleep work repeat.
  4. I have always had a massive feeling of giving back what I gained in my time as a cadet. My time as a cadet has massively changed me into who I am now (I know cliché but true).
  5. It’s normally fun.
  6. It’s normally rewarding.

I’m not great at writing about these kind of things I guess. The TLDR is I gained loads as a cadet, stayed to give back and stayed longer as I realised it was rewarding personally.


My reason for volunteering has changed over the years, initially as a CI, Sgt and junior officer I was giving back from what I gained as a teen in the Cadet forces, I wasn’t just a member of the ATC but chose the ATC to come back to.

Later on I now volunteer for 2 reasons:

  1. The people around me. I have very little interaction with cadets these days but a lot of interaction with CFAVs and I’ve made some great friends over the years.

  2. To make the experience better for everyone involved. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can contribute to how things are delivered in the organisation. As a line manager my aim is to be an umbrella and stop the proverbial from rolling downhill and showering the people I work with. As an administrator the ability to help manage the policy surrounding why people do things and how much hassle that is motivates me greatly.


I like wearing the uniform

I’ve been reading these comments with interest and I’m glad that someone has said it…

I don’t think it was me on that occasion, but I’m sure I’ve probably said it as well. I’ve often treated the line “I’m only in it for the cadets” with a little distrust.
I think that - as has been alluded to - that line often comes out because people are fearful of being accused of being “in it for the wrong reasons”. The readiness with which that accusation has been thrown around in the past is one of my pet hates!

All too often I hear and read the “we’re only playing dress up” sentiment. It winds me up frankly.
I personally see nothing wrong with pride in the uniform. It’s not the same as Waltism - as is often accused.

I suspect that there are a lot of people who derive enjoyment and satisfaction from the various aspects of service - Such as pride in the uniform, personal sense of achievement for qualifications gained, &c but that many of those people are put off from admitting it because of the attitude of self-deprecation which seems to be almost a requirement to be accepted in some quarters.

Provided that the cadets and the Corps is ultimately benefiting (directly or indirectly) from the service rendered by a CFAV, then that person is in ‘for the right reasons’.

Contrary to Gaz’s old credo, the cadet is not “doing us a favour by allowing us to serve”… We are all working towards the same goal.
If we want to provide a good cadet experience then we must provide a good staff experience and I think that one of the first steps towards a better experience for all is to get away from the BS and recognise that it’s actually desirable that our staff gte enjoyment and a sense of achievement from their service.


Goes back to the whole it’s meant to be our hobby aswell as theirs doesn’t it

It just needs to be seen as a hobby by the gods


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