The past few months have been an interesting, yet rewarding, opportunity to learn and develop the contingent during a period that can only be described as bizarre. The Army's expression 'improvise, adapt, overcome' has really come to embody the nature of lockdown learning with the battle between the online medium and some of our 'older' instructors yielding a host of amusing encounters. My role as WO1 (RSM) has seen me directing the learning and teaching of all year groups over the past few months. This has been a huge step up, but one that I have thoroughly enjoyed, taking the time to learn from those around me and develop my own skills to lead the contingent through lockdown 2.0. Developing our methods of delivery has been a key area of focus and alongside my team of senior NCOs, we have explored new online methods of teaching, such as A Company's military knowledge Kahoot quizzes and B Company's ongoing inter-section competition. Hopefully, as restrictions further ease, the contingent will be able to gain some long awaited 'green' experience, with plans for field exercises early in the Summer Term allowing our junior NCOs, and NCO hopefuls, to develop their leadership skills alongside years 9 & 10 who will at last be able to apply the content they have been learning over the past academic year. With the promise of further exercises on the horizon, including a Summer Camp sometime in June, the efforts of both the adult and SNCO body will soon come to fruition, exemplifying the high standards that Wilson's School CCF upholds, and no doubt being remembered for the indisputable success that lockdown training has become, something we can all take immense pride in.
As fun as sitting behind a screen for four hours a day learning about organic chemistry and statistical hypothesis is, the average lockdown week is fairly dull. However, one of the more exciting moments in my week happens on a Tuesday evening when we meet for online CCF. Although I would not normally use "exciting" and "lockdown" in the same sentence, we have had several fascinating experiences that would not be possible without zoom. Whilst virtual training for younger cadets continues, many of us have had the opportunity to listen to ex-WSCCF cadets, who are now army officers, talk about joining the army and valuable lessons on their experiences with leadership and dealing with failure. One of the Zoom sessions even included a virtual tour through the battlefields of France and Belgium, following old Wilsonians who fought in WW1. The speakers having been in our shoes at one point have provided insight into what is possible for us in the years to come.
Although I never anticipated having to learn fieldcraft through a computer screen, the last 3 months have definitely not been wasted, especially since we have finally been back as a whole for the first- time learning, since the first lockdown last March. We have learnt lots of useful information which will help us in our future CCF careers. Unfortunately, due to online learning, we have been unable to learn any drill, but we have been keeping up with our advanced fieldcraft knowledge as we learnt new information (about platoon harbours, platoon attacks and how to identify locations of the enemy). We have also recapped our previous knowledge of the 6 section battle drills and much more. I can't wait to return back to CCF in person and continue to learn putting our new knowledge into practice and returning back to drill.
From the senior perspective, training in lockdown has made me miss the atmosphere of CCF at school. Although sadly I don't have long left in the CCF, I and the other senior NCOs owe it to the younger years to keep it running as smoothly as possible, as well as keeping it fun and varied too, so particularly the Recruits start to see CCF for what it is, a place for making new friends and personal development, instead of another virtual activity after school. It's been a welcome challenge keeping the training dynamic as well as educational, and although I never expected my last year to be like this, I have enjoyed having a more hands-on role in the training, more than the usual overseeing I would be doing in face-to-face training. Overall I've found the experience useful as I feel it has made me more versatile and prepared for change in the long run.
Even after three lockdowns, Wilson's School CCF marches forward unhindered. The RAF section has taken these pauses to really question what the section is about and to kickstart a new era focussing on cadet engagement. This has yielded in innovative new teaching methods such as Skribbl, Kahoots, crib-sheets and an "obnoxiously visible scoreboard" in Biscay Squadron to promote the RAF's competitive spirit. The SNCOs have also taken it upon themselves to self teach completely new content to further broaden the scope of teaching and engagement for the cadets . This is perhaps best highlighted by Sgt Vishwanathan's ASTC preparation, in which we learned how to distinguish over 90 new, nuanced ATC aircrafts, as well as Cpl Garg's brilliant First Aid Quizlets during the fortnightly ASTC sessions. The progress of the RAF over lockdown has been incredible, fuelled by the hard work of staff, FSs and SNCOs, and we look forward to returning to in-person parades with the same energy and enthusiasm.
LCpl Patel, Aadin:
Throughout the course of lockdown, I have realised that life at home can be improved and enjoyed to its full extent. The weekly zoom parades and training sessions have been the focal part of my week and I owe a great deal to the perseverance of all involved in helping to set them up. They provide a much needed escape from the repetitive and sedentary lifestyle we have become used to at home and show that socialising is possible online. The sessions are designed perfectly, to be engaging and fun, through Kahoots and interactive quizzes, while also being educating and contributing massively to our development as members of the Wilson's school RAF section. Undoubtedly, my progression and enjoyment during these hard times is due to these brilliant weekly sessions and the dedicated people who sacrifice their time to make them possible.
"During lockdown, time feels slow," seems to be a common issue felt by whomever I ask for their perspective on the subject. Therefore, am I glad that I had the opportunity to continue with CCF training online as a vital distraction to the gloomy reality of the situation- we're trapped like rats in our own homes. Online training has been able to fill a gap as something to look forward to, something to strive for, where the bandage solution of listening to music incessantly has failed to serve as a sustainable motivator! Not only does online CCF keep social interactions alive, but I have found that I am able to finish my school work quicker after hearing one of my fellow cadet's jokes, and the subsequent branding of it as "mediocre," or entering a zoom call but forgetting to mute myself. It is moments such as these that make online training invigorating.
Being thrown into a lockdown has been an arduous struggle for everyone, meaning it was no surprise that the CCF was affected greatly. However, the way we have pulled through has been incredible, despite challenges and roadblocks such as all training being conducted online. Over these challenging times, we have learnt a lot from our online lessons, which were highly informative. The first aid lessons, the air recognition and the military knowledge lessons were beneficial to our unit in teaching us both life and military skills, and we learnt a lot from everyone who taught us. Engaging activities such as virtual games and our first official test were also immensely helpful as it helped us remember content that had been taught. Muster parades also helped inform us about the upcoming week, and news across the CCF. Overall, the CCF has been outstanding during these times and I am immensely proud!