On Saturday 25th May, the first day, we were at the Squadron for 0830hrs. Seventeen cadets from 487 attended the weekend. By 0900 hours, we'd loaded up the minibuses and were on the way to Earlswood. We picked up 2 cadets from 165 Squadron on the way, and then it wasn't long before we were at the campsite. When we arrived, we were taught how to put up a tent, then told to do it ourselves, which proved to be harder than it looked. After much critique from various cadets and staff, we had perfected our tents and then were told to completely take them down and reassemble them in a straight line across the back off the campsite.
Once that was done, we ate our lunch, and then were briefed on what we'd be doing on the weekend. We were sorted into three groups. Flt Lt O'Neill led an activity where he walked a distance, and we had to count the number of paces it took for us to go that same distance. We had no idea what this was for, but after doing this a few times, we had a number which was the number of paces it took us to walk 100 metres.
We were split into three groups; each assigned to a member of staff. We were told we were going on a “short walk”, and were to pack for a few hours, just water and sun cream because the weather was so hot. A short walk turned out to last about 3 hours. We all took it in turns to lead the group, which involved working out the bearings we'd walk on and making sure the group was all there (which, I assure you, is harder than it sounds. I managed to go about 100 metres before realising I'd lost Cdt Hughes and Sgt Johnson N).
We were back to the campsite for 1700 hours, where we got together our mess tins and our food for the evening. We had a variety of ration packs and dehydrated food, and somehow even the disgusting dried food tasted great because we were so hungry. After cleaning up, Flt Lt Cotton led a few teamwork activities, including the ‘impossible' sit up and press up challenges. Later in the evening, we had free time where we were making the most of the last few hours of sunlight. ‘Lights out' was at 22:30pm.
On the second day of the IET, we were up at 0730hrs, a lie in, considering we were all expecting to be up at around 6! An hour later, we were all dressed and sat around making our breakfast. Everyone ate, and then we had to go back to our tents and pack a bag for the day. We needed the same as yesterday, drinks and a waterproof, but then we also needed a packed lunch as today was going to be a longer walk. Before leaving we did a quick tidy-up of the shower building on the site.
We then got back into our groups, and instead of having the staff plan the route, we had to plan it ourselves. We knew where we were coming from, and were given a destination - Hob Hill trig point. By around 11am, we had planned the route and were already off again.
Our route started out, similar to the day before. However, barely half an hour in, we went the wrong way, so we had to recalculate the route slightly. We used techniques we'd learnt the day before, pace counting, compass bearings, and route planning. After a day of walking together, we'd gotten really accurate with our pace counting, which was where we all knew how many paces it took to go 100 metres, so we could precisely calculate how far we were walking along country lanes, which don't really have an indication of distance unless you use this method. It was helpful for when we were going through forests, and a few 100 metres would make all the difference in a turning point.
Along the way, we had a few emergency scenarios thrown in, cadets getting injured or losing the group; and many other “what if's”. These were helpful, as they were the sort of situation that you wouldn't really consider in the classroom, and they taught us how we'd have to react in the real expedition environment.
We also made friends with an over-friendly horse, which was named Keith by Cdt Price. The walk to Hob Hill took us about 3 hours, where we sat for a while and refuelled before the walk back to the campsite, which was considerably shorter and quicker. Once back at Earlswood, we packed up our bags and tents, and then did a last check “fod plod” over the site to make sure it was left in the condition we found it. After a quick debrief, we loaded up the vans and travelled back to 487 Sqn.
Cadet Charis Hunter-Rice, said after the weekend “On this camp I learnt basic navigation skills and how to survive in unfamiliar environments. I also developed an understanding of the importance of teamwork, knowing that I'd have been unable to complete the exercises without the motivation and imput from my group. Overall it was a very successful weekend and I can't wait to put these skills into practice on my Duke of Edinburgh expedition”