Military action worries behind drop in cadets
AN Air Training Corps squadron is struggling to recruit cadets because parents are worried youngsters may be “groomed” for military action.
Most squadrons across the Thames Valley have 30 or more members but Cowley’s 2210 Squadron only has nine – the lowest in the region.
The group, which has been running since 1941, has had 30 cadets in the past but has been struggling to recruit for the past nine months.
And if new blood is not found soon the squadron may have to close.
Emma Jackson, commanding officer of 2210, said: “A lot of parents seem to think the air corps groom cadets to join the air force, but that is not true. It is a youth organisation. We do not go out with guns and run around shooting.”
Ms Jackson added: “But I think the very low numbers over the last eight or nine months is also peer pressure and the fact it is not seen as cool to be a cadet.”
Civilian instructor Charlotte Jones, 20, of Blackbird Leys, said: “If the kids want to go into the military that is their choice, but we do not push them.
“I think parents have the worries because of what is happening with the services, with a lot of them fighting in wars and reservists getting called up.
“But we are not in the reserves, that is not our purpose. “Our purpose is to have fun and teach valuable life skills. “Cadets learn a lot and you get so many qualifications you do not get at school.”
The squadron meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 7.30pm at the ATC building in Sandy Lane West and offers qualifications and activities for 13 to 20-year-olds for £2 a week.
ATC squadrons are funded by the RAF and cadets learn flying, gliding, visit RAF stations and can train for BTECs and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The Cowley squadron has been losing members mainly because its older cadets have been leaving for university or employment.
Cadet Joshua Wilkes, 16, of Blackbird Leys, said: “I joined four years ago because I did not really have anything to do. I enjoy meeting new people and getting out and doing things you would not normally get to do sitting at home on the Xbox.”
Paul Haines, wing executive officer for Thames Valley Wing ATC, said: “Nationally the numbers are increasing, from 40,000 to 44,000 in the last year or two.
“In the Thames Valley we have more than 1,000 cadets and most of the squadrons have 30 on the books.
“Cowley is probably the smallest and struggling the most, but I do not know why. I just think people do not necessarily know it is there.”
There are 26 squadrons across the Thames Valley region, including 14 in Oxfordshire.
- To join the ATC contact Wing Headquarters on 01235 547 990 or visit www.aircadets.tv/join/cadet where you can complete an online application form