Wednesday, 17 August 2022

County’s most senior army cadet moves on

THE most senior army cadet in Oxfordshire has left the Henley detachment after seven years’ service.

THE most senior army cadet in Oxfordshire has left the Henley detachment after seven years’ service.

Tom Fearn officially handed over his duties to Connor McLennan, from Banbury, in front of fellow cadets and officials at their headquarters in Friday Street.

The 18-year-old, who became involved with the cadets at age 12 after seeing friends learn how to use a rifle, said it had been an “incredible” experience.

He recalled: “Firing a rifle was possibly the most exciting thing that one could do, so I quickly got myself down to my local detachment.

“Soon my enthusiasm for firing a rifle became a passion for the cadet force.

“I was inspired by the senior cadets at the detachment at the time and soon invested a lot of time and effort in the force, which has moulded me into the person I am today.”

Tom, of Noble Road, has won a number of awards and accolades, including finishing sixth in last year’s Army Cadet Force champion competition, which only the very best of the country’s 60,000 cadets can enter.

He has also proved himself in shooting, consistently being placed in the top 10 at clay target and being included in all cadet teams since February 2007.

However, Tom is most proud of becoming regimental sergeant major last year.

He said: “It is the highest rank you can get within the county and one in 100 cadets achieves it.

“It means that I have been the go-to-guy for the battalion and the role model for the cadets, who will hopefully emulate what I have achieved.”

Tom, a former Gillotts School and Henley College student, recently began working as a buyer for Henley Heating and Plumbing.

He has also joined the Territorial Army. He said: “The training is in Abingdon and while you cannot compare the two groups, the TA takes the same sort of dedication as the army cadets.

“I am taking the same fitness and psychological tests as you would in the army.

“You have to leave the cadet force at the age of 18 and nine months but you can come back as an instructor, which I may do in a couple of years. The skills that I have learnt and gained include discipline, which has enabled me to do well at college, in my job and in life as well as the cadet movement.

“My self-confidence has improved massively, especially as I had to do a lot of public speaking. I was also working a lot with youngsters, which involves teaching and instructing.

“The only way you can describe being in the cadets is to say that when you take up football, you have to learn many more skills than just shooting at goal.

“Within my cadet career I have had ample opportunity to do many things which someone my age would not normally have.

“From the moment I joined I have accumulated many different skills that have moulded me.

“It is active learning, although you do not always realise what you are learning. Once you are higher up you look back and see what you have achieved.

“I will miss it and the people but I am now ready for new challenges.”

Colour sergeant Michael Quigley said: “Tom has been a fantastic role model and one of the country’s top cadets.

“From a Henley point of view, we wish him all the best for the future. I know he will do well in everything that he does.”

The occasion was attended by Brigadier Robin Draper, Colonel David Carson and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Broome, senior officers with the Oxfordshire Army Cadet Force.

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