Tag Archives: ccf

Oh Canada!

The first week of Argonaut 2012 has been pretty low-key in all fairness, lots of training etc in preparation for the Big One – Bravo Company Senior Expedition Leader’s Course 18 day expedition… This will see about 400km being covered over that time split between canoeing, mountain biking and hiking. With that in mind Wednesday saw 7 platoon head to the water site for a day of canoe training, all good fun – I like being on the water. After some dry training, and a demonstration of  a T rescue we were on the water (St John’s River) and paddling in pairs to Cow Island for our box lunches. I volunteered to demonstrate the t-rescue and was prepared for the water to be freezing but I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was – quite a refreshing change from the UK.  I spotted a few mosquitos on my bare legs whilst eating lunch but thought I’d swatted them away in pretty good time… how wrong I was. I was in the rear of my canoe with my staff cadet up front, it was very windy and it was hard work to keep the canoe from being blown back to shore but we managed it. I’ve never canoed in weather like that before, so it was a good experience.

The St John River is pretty large, one of the biggest in Canada, and I was lucky enough to get a spin the in safety speedboat whilst the cadets were changing – much fun indeed. When we got back to camp following the 45 minute walk back on a trail, I noticed my bites were starting to look rather unattractive – nice and swollen and blistered.


I popped them all (yes, with clean hands) maybe I shouldn’t but hell, they were ridiculous. The one that looks the worst in the picture really was pretty bad, so I got some friendly advice from the guy who’d run our first aid training – he said to go get it checked out, so I did. The med centre, cleaned them all and covered me in plasters

They’ve gotten a bit better but are still not fixed, I popped back in today and was told to see the nurse practitioner for some anti-biotics tomorrow.It’s so dramatic. I know I would react badly to insect bites, I always do.

I had presumed that the camp was dry but I have been pleasantly surprised to discover a very active mess life here – I’ve popped in a few times and sampled some local beer. My favourite is called ‘Moosehead’ and I already have a glass to add to my collection from places I’ve visited. Friday night was karaoke night and I couldn’t resist…. I sang Hakuna Matata with an officer cadet before progressing onto Meredith Brooks ‘Bitch’ to a packed officer’s mess – hey, I like to get involved with the social side of life! I had a few of the officers from my platoon come and join me as backing vocals, it was really good fun but I still managed to get to bed by 1130.

Am impressed  with myself, though I did give the bar a miss on saturday for the ‘hawaiian night’ – turns out they were all up dancing til 4am. Sunday was a rest day but nevertheless, I can’t handle that: Hula skirts and bra tops are not my style.

So to summarize week one, I’d say it’s been good – the cadets haven’t really been a problem and they are doing well (for the most part). The Canadians are great and have made us all feel very welcome, I don’t have a bad word to say about them. There are obviously some differences in their ethos and training but nothing too massive and they’re certainly not divisive.

Canada eh?

I’ve been in New Brunswick, Canada, for just over a week now and so far, so good. The flight from London to Toronto was great – TV screens in the back of the seats that had a big selection of things to watch. Over the course of the 8 hour flight I watched ‘Horrible Bosses’, ‘The Sound of Music’ and a few episodes of ‘The Big Bang Theory – the food was good and the frequent coffee refills were extremely welcome. I’m not good at sleeping when travelling so I was awake for pretty much the entire journey. After not getting to bed til gone midnight the day before departure, I was up at 3am for a light breakfast before heading off to Heathrow at 4am. The flight was scheduled to leave at 0830…

No problems negotiating immigration at Toronto and all the cadets took it in their stride, including the ones who’d never done it before. The transfer flight to Fredericton was very different – much smaller plane, no TVs and no food but they still kept me supplied with coffee. When going through security at Toronto I got selected for a full body scan, all very technological and exciting.

We eventually got to Fredericton at 1700 local time which was 2100 back in the UK. After sorting out the cadets and accommodation etc I finally got to bed at 2230 local time 0230 UK time- almost a full 24 hours of being awake after a rubbish night’s sleep. Don’t think I’ve ever been that tired.

We were the first group of cadets to arrive at Argonaut Cadet Summer Training Centre (ACSTC) with the main body of cadets arriving the day after. To get us out of their hair (and to entertain us) the Canadians took us to ‘Kings Landing’ a living history museum documenting the lives of the early settlers to New Brunswick.

It was a really good trip made even better by lunch. Where the British Army have horror bags, the Canadian forces have box lunches. Due to a storm the day we arrived, the power was out so the kitchen staff had to get our box lunches made by the kitchen at the main base (CFB Gagetown). They were awesome.

Week one has consisted of mostly training for the rest of the course, the UK cadets have been split into two platoons and the other escort officer and I have assigned ourselves to a platoon. I am with 7 platoon, Bravo Company and Ann is with  6 platoon. The UK group are on the 6 week Expedition Instructors course at Argonaut, if you want to keep up to date with everything that is going on here there is an excellent Facebook group for the camp ‘Argonaut Cadets’ – well worth a like. My platoon headed off to Blue Mountain on Tuesday for two days of first aid training, this is an hour’s drive away from camp but still in the training area – CFB Gagetown is one of the biggest training areas in the Commonwealth. Blue Mountain is a former correctional facility, has a two buildings and some land around it. The cadets camped in tents and I was given the privilege of sleeping in the building on a camp bed. Big mistake. So many insects, the noise was crazy and I got bitten loads on my face by midges even though I had a mossie net on my sleeping bag. Ah well.

We were on rations for these two days and we got to try IMPs ‘Individual Meal Packs’, 1300 calories per pack and had some interesting contents. I got actual bread in mine along with chilli and beans, potato hash and bacon, jam, soldier fuel (an energy bar) and the usual additional condiments.They come with salt, pepper, coffee, napkin and a spoon. It was so hot that I didn’t bother with a stove and I cooked my food on the bonnet of the truck that was acting as a support vehicle.

This post only takes us up to Wednesday of this week but it’s already quite long so I think it’s time to draw this one to a close. I will post more tomorrow and Tuesday – til then, stay safe :-)

The waiting is over: Argonaut 2012

I found out in February that I had been selected as the Senior Escort Officer for the UK Exchange group to Argonaut Cadet Training Centre, New Brunswick and July seemed so far away. Now it’s time: our flight leaves in 24 hours and we will spend the next 6 weeks living and working together. Everyone in the group, both adult and cadet, will learn a lot about themselves and each other and this will be an experience to treasure.

Yesterday I met my fellow escort officer for the first time,and we seemed to get on fine – she was younger than I expected. For some reason I had presumed she would be older than me – but no, I’m 3 years older than her. The tone was set for me when I arrived at Frimley Park and was greeted by a member of staff with the words “Are you a cadet?”… “No”, I replied “I’m an adult”. There followed the usual conversation as to whether I get asked for ID a lot (I do) and then it was time to meet and greet the cadets and parents.

From that point on, it’s been non-stop and I am sure the next six weeks will continue like that. I know that we will be on expedition for 18 days, a little daunting but I am sure that it will be fine… There’s been the inevitable last minute rushing around to sort out cadet’s lost/forgotten kit but all in all, it’s not been too bad.

The clothing I designed and ordered from DCS Embroidery has gone down a storm and the cadets look really smart in it. I’m having the group all travel in the polo shirt and fleece – should make it really easy to find them if they go missing.

I’m not going to have much internet access while I’m away so it may well be that this is my last post for a few weeks. I will write and share my photos and experiences when I can, but for now – stay safe, enjoy the Olympics, Cricket Week and the summer as a whole and I’ll see you all after August 19th.



School based cadet units: What’s the best approach?

The MOD and Department for Education have announced that they are to put £10.85 million towards opening 100 new cadet units across state-funded schools in England by 2015. As many of you know, I am the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Administrator at a school in Manchester and have been an Officer in the CCF for the last 6 years.

I’m well aware that during my career as a CCF Officer I have flown up the ranks and achieved things that I just couldn’t have done had I stayed in the Army Cadet Force (ACF) way back in 2006. I started my cadetting career with Lancashire ACF but moved to the CCF when I got a teaching post in a school that had a CCF. I thought that combining my job with my hobby would be a good move. I was wrong. In many ways I wish that I had remained with the ACF from the start.

I don’t like to regret anything, for without the actions we do we would not be the people we are. You will never hear me saying that I regret jumping ship to the CCF, for had it not been for that move I would not have achieved half of what I have. There are some outstanding CCF units and they are to be applauded but in my experience, many of them are badly run and are potentially a liability. Understaffed and far too autonomous, they often struggle to meet the demands of Army Policy. In my opinion this could be improved by following a model broadly based on the ACF in that several CCF contingents are grouped together under the central command of a HQ. This would enable pooling of resources, both of manpower and equipment. No man is an island, yet CCFs operate in isolation struggling with too few qualified staff to enable training. It often seems that one Officer will hold all of the toys (qualifications) and obviously one person cannot be everywhere at once. A more collaborative approach to training can only be a good thing and one that is long overdue.

Greater Manchester ACF rolled out some school based detachments back in 2009 and they appear to have been a great success. This is another way of offering cadets within a school environment – CCFs are not the only way to bring cadets inside the school yard. My concern is that this latest initiative from the MOD and DfE will see them desperate to open new CCFs when actually the ACF may be a better organisation to sponsor these new units. Fingers crossed they get it right.

SIGG Alu Maxi

Hungry? SIGG Alu box Review

Given my ridiculous hobby and my unwillingness to buy food from the staff cafe,I spend rather a lot of time carrying my lunch around with me. Despite owning a myriad of outdoor gear I’d never purchased a specialist lunch box. Sure I’d seen them reviewed in magazines but somehow there was always something else I found to spend my cash on. Having now spent a few months using the SIGG Maxi Metallic Alu I can firmly say that I wish i’d owned one years ago!

The box itself was lightweight, cool to the touch and looked good – I wasn’t going to suffer the embarrassment of  carrying my lunch in something that looked like it belonged to a five year old! The box is well designed with a strong clip to keep the lid firmly attached to the box and a rubber lining on the part where the lid contacts the box.


Clip to close the lid

Rubber seal around the edge of the lid. This all has the effect of keeping the lid on nice and snug with no rattling (the last thing you want is your bag to be rattling with every step you take)

I am an adult volunteer in the Army Cadet Force and as such spend rather a lot of time away doing ‘this and that’. The MOD provides plenty of food to eat during the day but the packed lunches always arrive in a brown paper bag (hence the phrase ‘horror bag’ as slang for ‘packed lunch’). Before heading out into the hills for they day I transferred the contents of the Army issue lunch box to the SIGG Alu and was pleasantly surprised to see that all my food fitted inside. Another benefit was that the box was re-usable and didn’t fall to pieces as soon as it got the slightest bit damp…

SIGG Alu lunch box vs Army lunch box (bag)








I have taken the SIGG Alu with me whenever I have needed to carry my lunch and found that the lid doubles up as a plate when needed – pretty handy when you want to put your butty down if you need to go do something else! The SIGG Alu really does look the part – a colleague at work asked me about it and was very keen to go buy one himself. A big tick for the lunch box!

The lid doubles as a plate when needed







It’s all very well looking the part but how did it fare when used in anger? Well I dropped the box a fair few times and it survived with no visible damage. It seemed pretty water tight, keeping my lunch dry during a very rainy expedition. However, I did a submerge test at home on the SIGG Alu and I can confidently say that it is not a water tight box. For this reason I would not recommend it to take with you when paddling UNLESS it was inside a dry bag.

Overall I am extremely pleased with this product, the only draw back is that it isn’t water tight but that is a minor issue for what is other wise an excellent addition to my kit.

Would I recommend this to other people? Without a moment’s hesitation. Go buy one – it’s money well spent.

I was sent this product for the purpose of the review. Opinions are my own and unbiased.