Action, adventure and a sense of belonging are things most teenagers crave as they come of age.
Never mind teenagers, it’s something adults can spend their whole lives searching for before looking back and deciding whether they have fulfilled the promise they once had.
The teenage years of anyone’s life is crucial to how we develop into adulthood and what kind of people we become, following on, of course, from the old adage “give me the boy until the age of seven and I’ll give you the man”.
The Argyll and Sutherland Army Cadet Force might sound like a military way of achieving social fulfilment, but cadets will tell you it definitely has its benefits.
Lance Corporal Laura Thorniecroft from Middlefield has been a member of the Falkirk detachment for five years and is loving life as a cadet.
The 16-year-old, who is an S6 pupil at Graeme High School, said: “The cadets have helped me with attitude and confidence.
“I was very shy when I first started but since joining I’m a lot more confident, a lot more self reliant. It’s definitely helped me develop as a person and I’ll be staying in until they tell me I have to leave when I’m 18.
“I’ve got a lot of new friends, people I can spend my weekends with, and there’s lots of different types who go.
“There’s loads of different lessons to do as well. We do drill every day, but we get rifle training, first aid, and map and compass. Oh, and we do rolling about in the mud, which is much better fun than it sounds, and annual camp is brilliant.”
Looking ahead, Laura will use the skills she has learned to carve out a future career.
She added: “The next step for me is to become a Corporal and I’m doing the junior cadet instructor course, teaching the younger ones, and Duke of Edinburgh work.
“When I was younger I wanted to join the Army, but I’ve got other options now. I’ve got leadership and self reliance qualities which employers look for in young people.
“I’d like to go to college and become a chef, but I could do that in the Army as well.”
Around 300 youngsters from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Battalion Army Cadet Force attended an action-packed two weeks cadet camp at the Barry Buddon Training Centre near Dundee.
Among the activities were adventure training, white water rafting, mountain biking, abseiling, canyoning, paintballing, obstacle courses, clay target shooting and radio communications.
What more could young people ask for?
There are another five Army cadet detachments in the Falkirk area – in Camelon, Denny, Grangemouth, Larbert, Falkirk and Bo’ness – with around 750 cadets and 120 adult volunteers in 37 detachments as far up as Oban.
The ACF is one of the country’s largest voluntary youth organis-ations, as well as one of the oldest after starting life 152 years ago.
It welcomes boys and girls from the age of 12, or S1, of all abilities and backgrounds and offers a range of activities to help them develop physically, mentally and socially.
Some of the lessons do have a military flavour and regime, while others have a more community and fun theme, without any pressure to join any of the Armed Forces in the future.
During the annual camp at Barry Buddon, families of the cadets were invited up for a day to see exactly what they got up to and experience camp life.
The youngsters put on a show marching into the parade square to the sound of the cadets’ own pipes and drums for a traditional ‘drumhead’ service and presentation of medals and certificates.
Mums, dads, brothers, sisters and grandparents were then treated to a cookhouse meal like the ones cadets eat every day.
Cadet Corporal Stefan Alexander from Larbert said: “The day was good fun with plenty to do.
“It let our parents see what we do in the cadets and how we live at camp.”
The Battalion’s Commandant, Colonel Brian Hume added: “It was a really excellent day.
“The ACF offers young people so much and it has been very rewarding for the cadets and their adult instructors alike to have such an invaluable opportunity to be able to show their families all the great things their young people do while they are at camp.”
Cadet chiefs are keen to point out that the organisation is not a recruiting resource for the Armed Forces.
To find out more about the Army Cadets visit www.armycadet.com