Army Cadet Force is a family affair

David Doak, an adult instructor, mum Liz, nursing officer and son Ewan are all involved with the Army Cadet Force. INNT 42-454-CON
David Doak, an adult instructor, mum Liz, nursing officer and son Ewan are all involved with the Army Cadet Force. INNT 42-454-CON
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If you’ve ever thought it would be nice to have more family time, then the Doaks from Newtownabbey might just inspire you.

Dad David is an adult instructor with the Boys’ Model School Detachment of the Army Cadet Force where 17-year-old son, Ewan, is Cadet Sergeant Major.

Not to be outdone, mum Liz is nursing officer for the 1st Officer for the 1st Battalion Army Cadet Force.

According to the Doaks, their shared hobby has both brought them closer together and given each of them an “enriching and rewarding” pastime.

David, who is battalion shooting officer, says: “I started off more years ago than I care to remember, as a cadet, in this very company so I think that, for me, the cadet movement is ‘in the blood’. I really enjoy working with young people – even when one of them is my own. It’s brilliant to be in a position to give them practical skills and to see how they can flourish with encouragement and a bit of guidance.

“I encouraged Ewan to join the cadets but, after that, it was up to him what he made of the opportunity. I tell all the kids here that the more you put into the cadets, the more you get out – and that’s a great lesson for life.

“Certainly Ewan has matured and become much more independent thanks to the ACF and he has had some fantastic opportunities to travel and do adventure sports. I’m happy to think that I am bringing those sort of opportunities to other people’s kids too.”

Mum Liz is equally enthusiastic. She says: “As a mother myself, I know how important it is to get the kids out doing something active and I’m glad to be part of that. I also know that parents are really appreciative of the work that goes on to give their children the best possible experiences – and, in the cadet movement, those experiences are either free or extremely low cost which is brilliant for families on a budget.”

Liz joined the cadets as an adult instructor because she was fed up being a cadet force ‘widow’. She laughs: “It was a case of joining up and joining in or sitting at home on my own while they had a good time. Now all three of us really enjoy everything we do with the cadets and we have a great interest in common.

“I’ve been battalion nursing officer for five years now and even running the medical centre for 460 kids on a two-week annual camp doesn’t phase me any more: you just learn to take the challenges in your stride.”

So how does 17-year-old Ewan feel about having parents who are both captains in the Army Cadet Force?

He says: “Well there’s nowhere to hide. It could all seem a bit weird, but actually it works out ok. It’s quite good to have parents who really understand your hobby and, obviously, they give me a lot of encouragement.

“I have to say it’s a bit strange to have your mum on duty looking after everyone at annual camp but it does mean I’m never homesick and she and dad are always about if I need a bit of extra spending money.”

Liz and Dave are both passionate about encouraging more young people to join the ACF to take advantage pf a package of opportunities which, they believe, simply isn’t available through any other youth organisations - but they are also looking for local adults to step up to the challenges of becoming adult instructors.

Dave says: “We have some fantastic cadet detachments in and around Newtownabbey but we’re always looking for adults to help us grow our membership and take on even more activities. Anyone who is interested can start off as a civilian assistant and we’ll provide them with training and direction, supporting them to learn the skills they will need.

“It could be the start of an amazing new interest and it sure is a better option that sitting in front of the television every weekend.”

If you or your family are interested in finding out more about membership of the Army Cadet Force or training to be an adult instructor, telephone 02890 815221 or visit