Saturday 29th June 2024 marks the annual Armed Forces Day in the UK. It is a day to show support and celebrate the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community. The Armed Forces community is made up of current serving personnel of the Armed Forces, Veterans, Reservists and Cadets.

This year we interviewed Tristan Wilson, Program and Project Commercial/Controlling for Airbus Defence and Space, about the amazing work he does as an Adult Volunteer for the Army Cadet Force (ACF).


How did you get into Volunteering for the Army Cadet Force?

Since my children have begun to fly the nest, I joined the Army Cadet Force (ACF) as a ‘Cadet Force Adult Volunteer’ (CFAV) which is now a large part of what I do outside of work. When joining as a CFAV you go through a structured approach which is three tiers of Basic, Intermediate and Advanced training, each tier with assessments. Once you have done all three levels, you complete your probation and you are allowed to Instruct and interact with the young people without being supervised. My training period lasted about 18 months but it can be quicker for some people or longer, depending on the individual. I now spend one evening a week on Parade Nights plus at least 3 weekends a year away and a week’s Annual Camp plus various ad hoc training/courses/support etc.


What does a Cadet Force Adult Volunteer do?

As an adult volunteer you can get involved in a huge range of activities but the heart of it all revolves around engaging with young people, helping them develop both specific skills and also their own self-confidence. One of the most rewarding things I know is seeing the cadets doing things that they are initially hesitant about, becoming more proficient in them and, ultimately as they themselves progress, learning how to pass on those skills to others.. 

The building block of what happens is the Detachment which will be run by a minimum of two CFAVs, one of whom will be the Detachment Commander. These are usually based in the Community, sometimes within existing Military facilities, sometimes in schools and sometimes as independent entities. Cadets will belong to a Detachment and these will open one or two evenings a week. 

Typically, an evening focuses on training, and is split into two periods of lessons. The Syllabus is based around “Star Levels”, which cover areas including Military Knowledge, Drill and Turnout, Navigation, Fieldcraft, Skill at Arms, Adventurous Training and Community Engagement. Training is designed to be progressive, with each Star Level building on knowledge gained at the previous level. Lessons are given by the CFAVs and the more senior cadets. 

Detachments are grouped together into larger units, which for us is a Company. Our Company comes together for a number of weekends away during the year, usually at Army barracks. Last year these included several going to Salisbury Plain, which were great experiences. Company weekends are an opportunity to get more of a critical mass of different Star Level Cadets to train together. You also get to see other CFAVs that you perhaps haven’t seen since the last company weekend or Annual Camp and catch both professionally and personally. The cadets get the opportunity to do more physical and intense training. It is also often the first time some cadets are away from home. 

Finally, there is also Annual Camp which is usually a week or two during the summer holidays consisting of multiple companies. CFAVs use this as an opportunity to conduct more intensive teaching (such as on Field Exercises) and get to know other CFAVs from other companies.


What motivates you to volunteer with the ACF?

I think my motivation can be split into two parts. The biggest element is interacting with the cadets, teaching and encouraging them. I see their knowledge develop, which then helps them develop self-confidence. They also develop social skills, learn how to work in teams that may not be with their friendship groups, and build new friendships, all of which are very transferable skills into the wider world. 

The second part of the buzz I get out of Cadets is my own learning and development. As with the Cadets themselves, some of this, for me, is specific and not things I would necessarily get to do normally (such as navigation, field craft and weapon handling training), whilst other elements are around my own personal development, in areas such as leadership and self-confidence.

Finally, I would also add that, from a mental wellbeing perspective, doing something as different as this has been amazing.


How can you get involved in the CFAVs?

My advice to anyone who wants to join is to look at the ACF website ( which gives a good overview and also the steps to take to join. The ACF is always interested in new volunteers. I am obviously biassed and believe that the Army cadets are the best but there are others that you can join such as the Sea cadets or Air cadets which offer similar experiences and benefits to their members.

In September, Tristan will become a Detachment Commander. He will be in charge of 3-4 Adult Volunteers and a unit of around 30 Cadets, aged 12-18.