News & Events
14 October 2013
Air Cadets from Longbenton are flying on cloud nine after officially being presented with the Lees Trophy and recognised as the Best Air Cadet Squadron in the country – an historic first for Tyneside!
In July, we reported that the Benton based unit had won the trophy for the first time in its 57 year history. After undergoing a local and regional inspection, the squadron were then inspected by Commandant Air Cadets, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty, who was hugely impressed with the young people, their attitude and achievements, and their community work, that the squadron was named as the best in the UK out of almost 1000 units!
It’s the first time the Lees Trophy has been brought to Tyneisde and North Tyneside Council Chairman, Councillor Janet Hunter, invited the squadron to her Civic Sunday Service at St Bartholomew’s Church, Benton to mark the occasion. There were over 300 people from across the community in attendance and it was an occasion that saw the young air cadets put on a ceremonial show of pomp and circumstance. The air cadets joined with the church choir and local school children to perform the Anthem, I Am A Small Part of the World, which left not a dry eye in the proceedings.
Councillor Hunter said; “To have the Air Cadets from Longbenton here this evening is an absolute pleasure. The work the squadron does and the opportunities it offers to our young people is inspirational and it was the least we could do to recognise their incredible achievement and to say thank you.”
Upon receiving the trophy from Air Commodore McCafferty, the young people, aged 13 – 19, were joined in their loud cheer and celebration by the congregation, in such a splendid location for such a prestigious occasion.
Air Commodore McCafferty said, “The Lees Trophy recognises the best of the best. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Longbenton Squadron in July. The young people were having fun and clearly enjoying themselves. The squadron was a very happy place. When it comes to achievements, such as Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, BTEC Qualifications, and Flying and Gliding scholarships, the squadron is achieving way beyond targets.” The Air Commodore added; “But what impressed me more so was its community engagement; the way the squadron supports and works with the community and the young people from within the community, is impressive. To see the support at this occasion is incredible and along with the achievements, it’s a huge testament to the leadership of the squadron. It really is a pleasure to present the Trophy to 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron.”
Officer Commanding, Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson said, “The scale of our achievement is only now sinking-in. To put the achievement into a sporting context, it’s the equivalent to us becoming British Champions, or in a musical context, performing at Glastonbury.” “I am incredibly proud of our young people – young people from within our community – and the way in which we serve that community. The young people from Longbenton Squadron are a credit to Tyneside and the achievement is a massive coup for the community and for it to be recognised as the best in the UK is spectacular.”
The Squadron has undergone some major changes since 2008, boasting some of the best facilities in the area and a training and development programme which sees the young air cadets enjoy opportunities like flying, gliding, assault courses, adventurous training, sports and leadership exercises, both in the UK and aboard.
By taking part in the opportunities offered, the young people have gained over 14 Gliding and Flying Scholarships, over 130 BTEC Qualifications and over 90 Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, including 14 gold.
When asked where the squadron will now go, Flight Lieutenant Richardson was very optimistic. “The squadron is a stable presence in the lives of our young people and the lives of those we support throughout our community. We will continue to provide modern, agile, adaptable and relevant training to our young people to ensure that achievements continue to be enjoyed, life skills are gained, and aspirations are further increased, all whilst having fun!”