‘Do not be scared of Westbury’ – The Commandant’s view of the Cadet Force Commissioning Board

I spent a very useful weekend in early May observing at a Cadet Force Commissioning Board held at the Army Officer Selection Board centre in Warminster, Wiltshire.

This is where evaluation of adult volunteers who have been selected by their battalion as potential officers in the Army Cadet Force are assessed for their suitability to become a commissioned officer. All candidates are given a number on arrival (that they are known by) and most of the assessors are unaware until the end of the weekend of the name and background of the person they are assessing. Importantly the assessors do not discuss their views with each other until the final discussions when all of the assessment scores are in – this is to allow everyone to be as objective as possible.

The programme started with the president of the board (who is the senior officer on the weekend and who is responsible for maintenance of the Army’s selection standards for ACF officers) welcoming the group and then going through a series of myth busters (such as regional accents being disliked) to brief and to make everyone as relaxed as possible. After breaking up into squads the candidates introduced themselves to each other and that was them until the next morning, when the course directing staff then explained how the assessments (such as a planning exercise) would work. A mental aptitude test (a sort of Intelligent Quotient assessment) followed, and then the planning exercise ran. Each candidate was then interviewed by a senior officer (incidentally every single assessor was an ACF officer) and then each delivered a lecturette to their squad. After a relaxing evening, the next morning the command tasks were run, where each candidate led their squad. And that was it – assessments over and home time!

The directing staff then spent a great deal of time going through all of the results. While most candidates were average or above average, some were below standard in some areas. The senior officer for each squad (an ACF colonel) was responsible for coming to a fair and justifiable recommendation especially if there was a candidate who was not going to reach the standard required for a pass (and therefore a recommendation for a commission). The potential outcomes from Westbury are pass or fail, but for those that fail, some will be marked as ‘encourage to re-attend’. Incidentally the final say for who can be commissioned is the local commandant’s.

Once all the recommendations were in, each assessment board (there was one board for each squad) had to justify their final decision to the president of the CFCB, who scrutinised carefully each candidate’s outcome. After that, the report writing started – as the directing staff said that this would take a number of hours I left them to it as I had a plane to catch!

It was a very good weekend for me. I felt that all of the assessors really wanted every candidate to have the best opportunity possible to demonstrate their competence. They were fair and, most importantly for me, they were very able. I left feeling confident that any recommendations that are made by the CFCB are a good and accurate reflection of the potential officer.

To any adult who aspires to be an officer I would say, “Do not be scared of Westbury. If you are good enough, if you prepare properly, if you are ready and if you make the effort, you will get the recommendation that you want and you will be an officer in the ACF”.