An 18-year-old RAF Air Cadet from Flintshire has been named as the Best Female Cadet in Wales & West Region of the Air Training Corps.
Having been selected as the best in No 2 Welsh Wing – covering North and Mid Wales – Cadet Warrant Officer Jess Forde of Gwernymynydd has been selected as the top female cadet in a Region that covers all of Wales, Merseyside, Staffordshire and West Mercia – beating over 1700 female cadets in the process.
Jess has been a cadet at 2247 (Hawarden) Squadron since she was 13 and has taken part in the full range of activity on offer in more than five years as a cadet to date.
To name but a few highlights: she has been flying, including a 12-hour scholarship that she completed earlier this month; undertaken camps at RAF stations in the UK and overseas, which she will add to by attending the International Air Cadet Exchange in Canada later this year; and last year won the ‘Best Drill NCO’ trophy at the RAF Air Cadets National Drill Championships whilst leading her team from 2247 (Hawarden) and 2480 (Holywell) Squadrons to success at the highest level.
On promotion to Cadet Warrant Officer in February, Jess reached the highest rank available to air cadets which recognised her ability, commitment and leadership over a number of years.
In a letter confirming her nomination, Group Captain Roger Simon – Regional Commandant Wales & West, the senior officer in the Region – congratulated Jess on her successful cadet career to date:
“I was impressed by your determination and achievements within the Corps and the manner in which you have taken every opportunity presented to you, despite being a cadet in one of the Region’s smallest Wings and the logistical challenges presented by its location.”
In October 2016 – at the age of 16 – Jess was diagnosed with lifelong autoimmune condition, type 1 diabetes.
Just days after returning from a week-long camp at RAFC Cranwell in Lincolnshire, Jess was admitted to hospital.
From then on she has had to learn to monitor her own blood-sugar levels throughout the day and inject herself with the correct amount of insulin multiple times per day in order to stay alive – knowing that too much or too little can be fatal.
Jess’ diagnosis came as a huge shock which immediately shattered her aspirations of entering the Royal Air Force as an officer after her cadet service.
Group Captain Simon continued: “I was particularly struck by your resolve, demonstrated after your diagnosis with a serious medical condition, and the fact that you continue to enjoy a full cadet ‘career’ whilst managing that condition.”
As the nominee for Wales & West Region, Jess will now go forward to the National level, vying with her counterparts from Scotland & Northern Ireland, North, Central & East, London & South-East, and South-West Regions to win the coveted ATC75 Sword – presented to the Best Female Cadet in the Air Training Corps each year.
The Sword was introduced in 2016 to mark the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the Air Training Corps, and to replace the Dacre Brooch – the original prize for the Best Female Cadet – which is now worn by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge as her ‘badge of office’ as Honorary Air Commandant of the RAF Air Cadets.
The six cadets will join their male counterparts next month, in being interviewed at RAF College Cranwell by Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty – Commandant RAF Air Cadets – who will ultimately select the Best Cadets in the country.
Hawarden Air Cadets meet at their Headquarters on Manor Lane on Monday and Wednesday evenings and will be recruiting for new cadets aged 12 and in at least Year 8 in September.
To find out more – visit their website at hawardenaircadets.org