The Army Foundation College had 750 young people start their 12-month Junior Soldier training yesterday (22 September 2019)
The College at Uniacke Barracks near Harrogate, deliver a 12-month and 6-month course for 16 and 17-year-olds. The 6-month course started the week before. The shorter course works in conjunction with technical army careers and follow-on training.
But it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for friends and family, for the college and for the junior soldiers themselves.
Col Rich Hall MBE, Commanding Officer of the Army Foundation College, said:
The Junior Soldiers have made a monumental decision about their adulthood, a decision that not many can make at such a young age.
They are making a decision to join not just any employer, but the British Army and with that decision they also accepting certain restrictions to realise a career.
This year we have a record breaking intake of nearly 1,100, with around 10% being female.
But college offers the most comprehensive soldier-based training in the world. No other country has a facility like Harrogate – an average soldier gets 4 weeks basic training, we give them year.
The young people typically arrive with their parents and head to the gym to complete the necessary consent forms and other paperwork, after which they have time to engage with department heads from the College where they can find out about a whole range of support services, such as medical and dental, military studies, rehabilitation platoon, to name a few.
At this stage of their training the Junior Soldiers can leave after giving 2-weeks notice, with homesickness being the main reason for dropping out. It often said that many of the recruits come from a bad background and they are enlisting to escape form it, the reality is that is only the case in a very small number.
Col Rich Hall said:
We have some recruits that don’t have any GCSE’s, we view that as the school failing to provide the right climate, but if there is one place that will fix an educational gap, it is the AFC.
Some may have been labelled before they arrive and the Army won’t do that.
The college is very proud in what it gives the recruits to go onto other things, we hope that a recruit then signs up to a 24-year career with the army, but if they don’t they are prepared for whatever may come next for them.
Although 25% of the training is educational, the recruits learn so much more. They learn social mobility, make life-long friends, travel and experience things they never thought they could.
The training we give them pushes leadership, teamwork and mental fortitude. It pushes them to be decision makers in all aspects of their lives and can catapult them in positions of leadership.
This is a time to mingle with other parents and Junior Soldiers and is where the atmosphere changes a little, becoming more serious. Parents are handing over the care and development.
Speaking to some of the parents
“We are very proud today and we know that he wasn’t achieving what he could academically, this is just such a massive opportunity for him”
Speaking to some of the Junior Soldiers
“I always wanted to be in the tank regiment, I feel good, just really excited”
“It feels great to be here, I have thought a lot about it, but I decided to apply in February this year”
The Commanding Officer, Col Rich Hall MBE then briefs the families in the lecture theatre.
Col Rich Hall Said:
We don’t need the Junior Soldiers to arrive with any particular background or knowledge.
We just need a willingness to try and give their best, to learn, to improve and to keep going.
We just need them to be the best they can be.
The recruits are 16 or 17-years-old on entry and the college is proud of how they look after the young soldiers in their care.
Col Rich Hall said:
Parents need to know that their Junior Soldier is thriving and safe and if things are not going quiet right, what we are doing about it.
We need parents to have a closer relationship with our College instructors than they maybe had with the school teachers.
Homesickness is the single biggest reason someone doesn’t complete the course. Whilst there is no easy fix for this the College recognises this to be an area that needs constant attention. In response it has worked to identify the times when homesickness is the most prevalent amongst the Junior Soldiers, after long weekends and leave etc. Now the College ensures that there are activities such as inspirational speakers, sporting events and fayres put on for the Junior Soldiers to help them through these times. We find that these help the Junior Soldiers to adapt to being away from home and focus on the present and future, rather than the past.
Once the feeling of homesickness goes then they really thrive.
Once Lt Col Rich Hall MBE finished his presentation, the Junior Soldiers said their goodbyes, often tearful goodbyes to their family – they then go separate ways. The first leave time will be in 5-weeks time and the soldiers have limited use of mobile phones and only at the end of the day.