Cadets Ready for Nijmegen Marches 2016

On Sunday 26th June, a Pass Out parade of Kent Cadets, who are about to take part in the Nijmegen Marches, signalled the culmination of months of training and preparation. […]

On Sunday 26th June, a Pass Out parade of Kent Cadets, who are about to take part in the Nijmegen Marches, signalled the culmination of months of training and preparation.  The Parade Reviewing Officer was London & South East Region Commandant, Group Captain Al Lewis.
The cadets have been training for the first half of 2016 to go out to Holland to complete the 4 days of marches.  The 200 guests and parents were invited along to a presentation by Flt Lt Chris Tate, Nijmegen Team Leader, who is also OC 40F (Maidstone) Squadron.   He explained just exactly what Nijmegen means, with an overview of the preparation and a video of cadets marching last year.  The parade is an opportunity for the cadets to show their families how proud they are of their achievements and celebrate the end of their training.
It all started in November with the opportunity to take part being advertised across the Wing.
Kent run a taster weekend around November time where the cadets walk around eight miles one day and the following day will be given an overview of what Nijmegen is all about, giving both them and the staff an opportunity to assess if they are ready to make the commitment to take part and have the right fitness levels.
Training starts in January, with one training weekend every month.   In April the team completed the RAF Two Day March at RAF Cosford, which is 25 miles each day, and the cadets have to pass this to qualify to take part in Nijmegen.
All the training has taken place around Folkestone, including along the seafront, usually starting with a march up the very steep Peene Hill.  This helps, even though Holland is fairly flat, because on day three of the Nijmegen marches teams tackle what the Dutch call ‘The Seven Hills of Nijmegen’.   The cadets have completed 350 miles of training with some taking part for the first time and others for the fifth time.
There was something unique about the cadets on parade today as they were all wearing medals on the left side.   For every March that is completed a medal is awarded.  The cadets are very proud of their individual medals and know they are not an official medal.   However, it’s the only real chance they get to wear the medals whilst in uniform and wear them with pride.
CWO Selhi, who will be completing his fourth Nijmegen March this year explained the three medals that he and many of the others were wearing on parade today.  The first, green and yellow, was for Nijmegen itself; the second, RAF colours, for the RAF two-day march at Cosford, and the third, red and yellow, for the Death March.   This March is an extra one offered to the more senior cadets which is in Belgium, is 100 miles to be completed in 24 hours which is a very long day and a challenging experience.   He said: “I feel completely ready for Nijmegen and can say the same for all the other cadets.   Once they have completed the RAF two-day March and they are on this parade square they know they’ve made it and are ready to go out to Holland in three weeks time.”
The large contingent of 68 cadets going from Kent this year is divided into five teams, consisting the “A” Team of 10 cadets and two staff who stay at the Dutch Military Camp called Camp Heumensoord along with the British Military Contingent as Air Cadets.   Members of the “A” Team have to be at least 16 in the year of the March and if you are 19 you have to carry 10kg.  The reason for that is once over the age of 18 as part of the Civilian Contingent you have to complete 50 kilometres a day instead of 40 where the military march 40k but with added weight.   The other more junior cadet teams, “B”, “C”, “D” and “E” will have up to 14 members and complete the March in the Civilian Contingent as part of Mid Kent Young Walkers Association.  The average age of all the cadets taking part is around 15 years.
In addition, 12 Adult Volunteers have been with the cadets every step of the way and will be joining them, in Holland, as Team Leaders and march support.
Nijmegen means some early mornings, which can start any time from 3 am to 5 am.  The atmosphere at Nijmegen is amazing.  There are 40,000 participants and this year, because it is the 100th Anniversary of Nijmegen, the number has been increased to over 50,000 and there are up to one million people out on the streets to cheer the marchers on.   CWO Selhi said: “The only way I could describe it is ‘wall to wall’ people everywhere, on either side of the road and to the Dutch it is a party week because it is an international event.

Nijmegen is a University Town and a lot of the students there use the occasion to celebrate and have fun.  By the time it gets to day four you almost cannot move because so many people are on the street to cheer the marchers on.   Young children come out onto the streets with plates of food, and we hand out little ‘thank you’ badges or stickers with the union flag on, as something to take away and remember us.  The support we get is phenomenal.
CWO Selhi was awarded the Birch Memorial Trophy which was donated in memory of a colleague who worked for Kent Wing.   The cadets vote at the end of their training to choose the cadet who has helped them the most throughout the year.   He said:  “It is very humbling to receive this award for the third time.”