Each year the ACF runs the Champion Cadet Competition to try and identify the top cadet from throughout the UK. Not an easy task as CUO Jonathan Gilbride found out:
This was my second time going down to the Cadet Training Centre at Frimley Park, so I wasn’t that bothered about the travelling, however, as I was waiting for the gate to open after I got past security, I began to think more and more about the competition, because I really had nothing else to do. The closer I got to Frimley, the more excited and nervous I began to feel about the competition. My travelling arrangements started by getting dropped off at Glasgow airport at 0930 for my 1100 departure, arriving at Heathrow Airport at 12 noon. I then got a bus to Woking train station where I got the train for Farnborough station and then a taxi to the Cadet Training Centre at Frimley Park arriving at 1430.
Briefing: The CTC Commandant congratulated all 17 of us. He said we should all be proud because we had already shown that we were one of the top 17 cadets in the country. He told us that we would be tested both mentally and physically on the weekend, whilst doing a range of different tasks. He also informed us that we would not know what we would be doing in advance, but only told timings, locations and equipment to bring, so that we would all be equally prepared therefore giving no one an unfair advantage. We were told how the Directing Staff would be scoring the events over the weekend (1st in an event gained 17 points – all the way down to last who gained 1 point) and whoever had the most points at the end would be given the title of Champion Cadet. All of the cadets were given a coloured bib and from that point were called by the bib number by the staff – I was Yellow 7. It was amazing; I had never seen so many RSMs and CSMs in the one room before. It was strange to think that by the end of the weekend, one of these cadets would be the top cadet in the UK.
PT Exercise: This consisted of all cadets doing their best efforts of press ups and sit ups, followed by a mile and a half run. Scoring was decided on who had completed the most sit ups in two minutes, and then a repeat for the press ups. And the run was based on the individuals’ time.
Air Rifle Shoot: This was a timed shoot. Everyone had one minute to fire 10 rounds at the target in front in a low light environment using the Scorpion air rifle. This was one of the events that I fell down on as I was not very confident with this weapon.
Written Tests: Throughout the weekend we were given many written tests to do. For example the Fieldcraft test was completed late Friday night before we headed back to our rooms, then tests on First Aid happened on Saturday morning before breakfast. We were also given a test on optional subjects. Some of the choices were DofE, Adventurous Training, CFIT, Signals and Music. Most of the tests were fairly straight forward – except the optional test. That one was probably the hardest and the one I was least prepared for.
Memory Test: We started by watching video footage of men selling weapons for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute clip of the BBC Proms, then going back to answer questions about the video of the men selling weapons, testing our short term memory. Most of the contestants found this test difficult.
Navigation: A large part of the testing was focused on navigation. One of the challenges was a Compass Challenge, which tested our bearings and pacing over a short distance. We were also tested on the Saturday morning with a Navigation Exercise where we had to search for ten points dotted across the training area within ninety minutes. And then at 2200 we had the Night Navigation Exercise. We were split up and taken to five different markers. Before we set off we were given one set of coordinates and when we reached that destination we were given another set. This was done for all 5 markers in the training area. We had two hours to complete this exercise. I found the night navigation fairly easy as I finished with over half an hour to spare. It was quite amusing as a number of people got lost and the staff at Frimley had to send out mini buses to look for them!
Command Tasks: There were ten stations of different Command Tasks set up, and as a section we went around each task until every person in each section had a shot at taking charge of a task. Each person had 15 minutes to get their team to complete the task. Scoring was not decided on how fast the task was completed, but on how well the leader controlled/used his team and how they set about instructing the team how to complete the task.
Assault Course: The final event that was completed before the photographs and the presentations on Sunday, was the singled timed run around the Frimley Park assault course. This event was something that I really enjoyed and felt that it was something I had done very well in.
Not long afterwards we all found out who had become the Champion Cadet, and no, unfortunately, it was not me. It didn’t really bother me that I did not win and I was really happy for the cadet that was lucky enough to claim the Clare Shore trophy. And I was also so pleased with myself, because I felt that I had done well against the best cadets in the UK, and still feel so very honoured that I was lucky enough to be Glasgow and Lanarkshire’s first ever contestant for the Champion Cadet Competition. I think this was the reason that I was so nervous when travelling down, because I had so much support from all my family and friends and everyone throughout the Battalion. I just wanted to go down and do my best and make them all proud. And I do not think I could have done any better in the competition. I realise that through me other younger cadets may understand the way I did, that with 5 to 6 years of commitment and dedication that it is possible to, not only reach the top in the Battalion, but to go on and fight for the top spot in the UK. I might have been the first contestant from G&L, but I am sure that I will not be the last.
Jonathan was placed a very commendable fifth in the competition.