More than 150 cadets and staff attended Buckingham Palace gardens for the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards Ceremony.
Commandant Air Cadets, Air Commodore Tony Keeling MBE, joined the cadets and Cadet Forces Adult Volunteers (CFAVs) for a special event hosted by Prince Edward, the Duke of Edinburgh, for the first time as the Charity’s Patron.
172 cadets and ex cadets were invited to attend as recognition of their Gold award, as well as around 15 special regional guests for adult volunteers who had directly contributed to running the award - most of them for in excess of 10 years.
More than 20 cadets and staff from LaSER, Central and East and South West regions also assisted with running the day.
The Palace gardens had a festival-style theme; lots of live music, huge deck chairs and lots of bunting. It was a day to remember for thousands of young people who also got to mix with celebrities as well as royalty. Alice Beer, Jermaine Jenas, Rav Wilding and Kirstie Allsopp were just a few of the household names in attendance who were also motivational speakers.
Our Air Cadets are only able to take part in such a worthwhile programme because of the support from our CFAVs who work tirelessly each year to help the next generation prepare. The event was an opportunity for them to get recognition and hopefully incentivise other volunteers to take part in the future.
One of those was Flt Lt Elly Shipley, the Officer Commanding of 308 (City of Colchester) Squadron. She completed her own DofE Gold award as a cadet and this year she saw her brother, CWO Wakeman receive his award.
Flt Lt Shipley said: “It was such a privilege to there and see cadets and CFAVs who I supported from the beginning of their DofE journey. However, it was extra special that I was able to share that moment with my brother and for him to see that my constant nagging to upload evidence was worth it.
“My brother was always so in awe of the experiences given by the Air Cadets whilst he was young, so he was on our squadron's waiting list from about the age of 5. He was in the car with my mum picking me up from my own expeditions and was always excited to look through my photos so he couldn't wait to sign up for the award himself.”
We asked Elly what advice she would have for adult volunteers who are considering taking part.
“Not only have I made some incredible memories and new friends myself, but I also know that I have supported cadets and CFAVs achieve something that is a highlight to some of their RAFAC careers," she said.
"You can inspire participants and help them make memories that will stay for them for their rest of their lives. I still owe everything to the adult volunteers who supported my awards as a cadet, and it inspired me to do the same for future generations.”
CWO Wakeman said a former footballer helped make his day memorable:
“The highlight of my day at Buckingham Palace was hearing HRH, the Duke of Edinburgh’s talk as well as getting an opportunity to meet him. Also, as a big football fan, it was amazing to hear Jermaine Jenas’ speech and to think about how the skills I have developed will help me in the future. The cupcakes were delicious too.”
We asked him what advice he would give to cadets who are already on the Gold Award journey.
“Just keep going and enjoy every moment of it," said CWO Wakeman.
"You may want to miss a volunteering session or feel like you want to give up during your expedition, but just keep powering through because completing the award is such an incredible experience.”
If it is the sense of adventure that attracted you to the Air Cadets in the first place, the DofE takes you through a programme of activities that will ensure you are a more confident, motivated, and capable person. The Gold DofE Programme is a non-competitive personal challenge, open to all young people which takes a minimum of 12 months to complete. Our cadets have to complete five sections: physical, skills, volunteering, a residential stay and a four-day expedition.
Finding out more about the Duke of Edinburgh Award on their website and also talk to the volunteers at your unit.
Are you interested in joining Air Cadets as a volunteer? Please see more information and how to get in touch with a unit near you in this dedicated volunteer section on our website.
Do you have a story you would like to feature in this News section? If so, please contact the RAFAC Influence Team at [email protected]