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90 Air Cadets complete the gruelling Ten Tors challenge

Ninety Air Cadets from across the South West participated in the Ten Tors Challenge at the weekend.

The teams of six took part in the trek of up to fifty five miles across the Northern part of Dartmoor over a two day period.

It was the largest RAFAC commitment ever to the event, with Cadets competing from Devon & Somerset, Dorset & Wiltshire as well as Plymouth & Cornwall wings. There may be many challenging outdoor events in Britain today, but Ten Tors stands out for its scale, ambition and the fact that it is aimed solely at young people from the South West.

See more images and video from the event on RAFAC's main Facebook channel

The Challenge is organised by the Army, supported by the Royal Navy with their Merlin helicopters and the Royal Air Force. The Services man the check-points along the routes and are transported to these locations by RN Merlin helicopters; it is a huge logistical operation. Amongst them was Jon (Benny) Hill, RN Reserve, a former Service Helper at 1015 (Horsham) Squadron in Sussex.

He said: “In the past I’ve helped out in Sussex Wing with their South Downs Challenge, but this is the first time I have experienced a similar event but on such a large scale.”

Preparation is key at such a challenging event.

The Air Cadets started their training in December and have worked hard to prepare via team building and practice runs.It has helped them to be self-sufficient, and to carry all that they need to complete their route and stay out overnight safely. Some participants will have used the preceding training weekend as a practice expedition.

More than 2,500 young people from schools and youth organisations took part. They set off and finish at Okehampton Camp and arrived to thunderous applause from staff, parents, siblings and friends.

The first RAF Air Cadet team to finish the Ten Tors was 41F (Taunton) Squadron. The team gave an insight to how they were feeling with words such as ‘very tired’ and ‘very happy to have accomplished the 45 mile route. Having camped out overnight and completed the walk in rain on Sunday they were all keen to return, some even expressing a wish to complete the 55 mile route. The training definitely helped them with a ‘top notch’ staff team and they ‘could not have asked for better support’. The expressions on their faces said it all, despite aching feet! Amongst the families at the finish line was a very proud former WRAF, Kimberley Wright cheering on her grandson Jack Wright.

The second RAF Air Cadet team across the finish line were 874 (Sherborne) Squadron. Waiting for the team to arrive was Warrant Officer Mike Metcalfe, the Officer Commanding of 874 Sqn.

He said: “ We start the training in November and from January onwards it’s every other weekend. Their biggest day walk is 26 miles during training. It varies every year as to how many cadets take part in the training and as a Wing we are really trying to encourage cadets to take part.

“In 2022 there were two teams completing 35 miles, one now completing the 45 miles this year. The cadets have already ‘told me’ not ‘asked me’ that they want to complete 55 miles next year." 

WO Metcalfe added how immensely proud everyone was of the cadets for their hard work.

On Friday evening The Ten Tors organisers presented CI Harry Seeley (Digger) with his 30 year award, WO Metcalfe received his 15 year award and Fg Off Rob Wood his 10 year award for involvement with the Challenge. 

Corporal Joel, aged 14 and from 1387 (Liskeard) Squadron, was the youngest cadet taking part and Team Leader for those on Route Bravo. He said: “I prepared for the 35 miles, training and completing the distance in sections over the months. The skills I learnt, such as navigation and team leadership, saw me through to the finish line.”

Steve Pascoe, a Civilian Instructor at 197 (Devonport) Squadron was completing his 18th year as an adult member of staff and was delighted to find out that Joel was taking part as he completed the Ten Tors with his father when they were both cadets

FS Andy Turner from 2309 (City of Plymouth) Squadron, was the Team Manager for six cadets taking on the 45 Mile Ten Tors Challenge route. Andy was a Clearance Diver in the Royal Navy and became involved with Air Cadets through his children. He is a Duke of Edinburgh Safety Supervisor at Bronze, Silver and Gold Levels as well as Mount Leader and Climbing Wall Instructor. 

There was plenty of encouragement and admiration for those taking part.

FS Tom Hubbard, 339 (Ivybridge) Squadron was completing his last Ten Tors and has participated five times, completing the 35 mile distance twice. He has been an Air Cadet for six years and always put himself forward for any adventure training that came along and considers Ten Tors to be the best. He is currently in his third year of an Apprenticeship with Babcock in the Royal Naval Dockyard, Devonport. Tom said: "I do not find the 35 mile distances too difficult so I am now challenging myself to complete the 55 mile Challenge, and it is definitely the highlight of my time as an Air Cadet.”

Regional Commandant for the South West, Group Captain Maxine Fletcher, said: ”It was magnificent to see and chat to the RAF Air cadets and their team leaders at the start line on Saturday. All the practice was worth the sense of achievement on completion. I am pleased I was able to meet them at the finish and present medals to all the teams at the end of their Challenge.”

Sqn Ldr George Blacbourne overall Manager for the Plymouth & Cornwall teams had these final words: “We entered five teams in total including 3 x 35 miles, 1 x 45 miles and 1 x 55 miles, all completing as full teams. This represents the largest RAFAC commitment to the event that really is the South West's premier challenge. The ability to offer entry over all 3 levels pays testament to our Wing's training process and the dedication of all our Volunteers. The event is the largest event of its kind aimed at Cadets and young people. It is well respected by the Armed Forces for helping participants to develop skills in team work, resilience, navigation and leadership.

"It has been an extremely successful weekend with all our teams completing as full teams.”

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