The ATC is strongly linked in the minds of the public with the Royal Air Force, and one of the activities which the Air Cadets can do (and no-one else can) are the annual 'Blue' Camps. These are week-long camps on RAF bases where cadets get the chance to see what the Air Force is like from the inside. They stay in the same type of accommodation as an Airman, eat in their Mess and see what they do for their jobs. This might involve visits to the Air Traffic Control tower, taking part in an exercise with the RAF Regiment, work experience with the RAF Police, flying on an RAF Hercules or a whole variety of other activities. Cadets usually get chance to shoot, take part in sport and visit local attractions as well as flying in the Grob Tutor if there is a local flying squadron.
Depending on which station is hosting the camp, cadets can get a really good insight into the RAF of today - and even if a cadet is not interested in joining the Forces they can get a lot out of a 'Blue' camp. Cadets are selected from Squadrons across the Wing, so many new friends are made, and the opportunities are there to practice leadership and teamwork as well as self discipline (being ready for activities with the right kit at the right time) and ironing (the uniform upkeep prize is always hotly contested!).
Places on Blue Camps are fewer than in the past, but are always in demand. Any cadet aged 13 years and older can apply, and every camp is different - different stations, different cadets, different staff so everyone comes home with a story to tell.
A Greens camp is completely different to any other camp in the ATC, instead of station visits, flying, or adventure training, you spend your time in the field learning essential skills for survival in the field, such as;
· Camouflage and concealment
· Tactical movement in the field
· Living in the field
· Military style training and field exercises
On these camps you will find yourself living in a barrack block, in dorm rooms with up to 12 other cadets, and eat in a mess hall on base. You may also go out on 2-3 day field exercises where you pack a Bergen with all of the items you will need to survive, such as sleeping bag, ration packs, clothes, mess tins, and many other things. After getting all of your kit, and being inspected, you may then be issued with an L98 Cadet GP rifle, and start your tactical advance into the field to begin the exercise, which may include ambushes, night exercises and assaults of simulated enemy positions.
Greens camps are always great fun and everyone enjoys them, as living the life of a soldier is a life experience you will never forget.
Once a cadet has attended a UK 'Blue' Camp, they can apply to attend a camp on a overseas base. In recent years, cadets from Hexham Squadron have attended camps in Gibraltar, Germany and Cyprus - many have come back a bit sunburnt but all have had a great time! Overseas camps have a very different focus to the UK camps, making the most of the local facilities and the local places of interest. For example, cadets on camp in Germany might visit Arnhem or have the chance to visit a local city like Cologne, cadets in Cyprus might walk in the local mountains . They will still spend time with the service personnel stationed on base, and live in the same sort of facilities that they do, and may even fly over to the camp on an RAF transport aircraft.
Older cadets can also apply for the International Air Cadet Exchange, where young people from 20 countries worldwide (not all military organisations - some are aviation clubs) can learn about each others' cultures and lifestyles by visiting other countries. For example, cadets from the UK who are selected to visit Canada might visit the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, spend an afternoon with a tribe of First Nation American Indians, go white water rafting and live with a Canadian family in Montreal. The camps last just under 2 weeks and are an experience like no other.
In the summer of 2015, I got the chance to attend an overseas camp at RAF Gibraltar. This involved making our way down to Heathrow airport at times we usually only see one of and making our way over there with other people from all around the Corps. When we got to Gibraltar we got shown where we were staying and got the chance to get a bearing on where we were and go to the beach. The first full day we were there we had to be in uniform for the camp photo and for some initial briefings. Throughout the week we got to things like going up the rock of Gibraltar to see the monkeys as well as seeing the different parts of the base including the bomb squad and the people in the regiment over there. Included in the week there were also trips into Spain, one to an amazing water park where most people got sunburn and one to a Spanish version of Go-Ape. Coming home was probably the most difficult part of the week as I met some amazing people while being over there and even now I still speak to the people I met.
By Cadet Warrant Officer Mole