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Rising to the challenge….

Our North West Team Instructor Sgt Bowen is going to take us on a weekly journey following 13 Year Five pupils (aged 9-10) from Palace Fields Primary School, Runcorn as they progress through their 12-week primary core programme.

Welcome to my first posting: Each week, I will take you on a journey through words and pictures that, hopefully, makes you feel connected to the challenges the students are about to face. They are taking part in our 12-week core programme and will be put through their paces as they face different challenges, tasks and environments each week. Words you will see frequently will be TEAMWORK, DETERMINATION, DISCIPLINE, GROWTH and, my personal favourite, GRIT. We know that each participant will demonstrate all of the above at some point throughout this programme.

WEEK 1: INDUCTION AND CREATING THEIR NEW IDENTITY – Uniform issue

The use of uniforms is commonplace – in schools, the police, NHS and the military. Uniform is worn not only for reasons of practicality but, importantly, it creates a sense of identity and belonging, of being part of an organisation bigger than oneself. In addition, it is a way of installing order, discipline and hierarchy. Those taking part on our programmes must project an image that leaves no doubt that they work by a common set of core values and to a structure based on order and discipline.

Today, we issued everybody with their Challenger Troop uniform, which comprises a red T-shirt, combat shirt, trousers and black combat boots. By giving them this new identity, we are reinforcing the fact that they are no longer in the school environment; they are now mini troopers and we are their instructors.

We detailed our expectations in regard to how we expect them to appear and how to look after their uniform. We like to emphasise that it is the responsibility of each mini trooper to make sure they attend every week in their uniform, to always be well presented and ready for inspection at the start of each weekly session.

During a practical ironing session, the mini troopers were taught how to safely use an iron and, under careful supervision, pressed and ironed their new uniforms to the standard we will be expecting from them each week – pockets fastened, collars turned, crease down centre of trousers with no tramlines, T-shirts tucked in and shirt sleeves ironed with a crease from shoulder to cuff.

Parents: please don’t think … GREAT, another chore added to the list. Your children have demonstrated during this session that they can safely take on the responsibility of ensuring their uniform is correctly pressed and I encourage you to help them practice this at home, under your supervision. We believe that taking on responsibility is part of a child’s growth and by encouraging your child to practice their new skills you are helping them grow.

“I have never used an iron before and in the past I have helped my mum fold the clothes, now I can show her that I can help out more.” said KB

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Following this session, we move onto the boots and how to correctly polish them to get that all-important shine. Firstly, we discuss reasons why we might do this. We try to instil the importance of looking after our kit and to take responsibility for our belongings. To help them relate, I might ask them to tell me about something they have at home that they take care of and why they look after it so well. And then, the practical session…

Parents: Why don’t you ask your children to demonstrate how they have learnt to polish their boots using the two brush method?

“I like how shiny I got my boots”’ said JA

 

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This is a great time to mention socks!! When wearing boots such as combats, it’s important for the mini troopers to be wearing thick socks, which help to protect their feet from the potential discomfort caused by blistering and ‘rubbing’.

PROVIDING A SENSE OF ORDER

When the mini troopers arrive, we place them in size (height) order and in 3 ranks. It’s surprising how out-of-sync a child feels being put out of their usual structure; the 3 ranks is NEW AND EXCITING and the opposite to the usual “line up” they are so familiar with in school. Once sized-off and in their new formation, we go over the rules, boundaries and clarify our expectations in terms of attitude, participation and behaviour. The mini troopers are expected to remember these throughout the subsequent weeks and to work to meet our expectations at all times. But we also open this up for questions and discussion, and there are always plenty of questions. An example of this today was when we were asked “what is a carbonated drink?”, “why can’t we have it?” As a company promoting fitness and well-being, we don’t allow any carbonated drinks, preferring to promote the benefits of drinking water. Also in this Q&A session, we explain that the rules and boundaries are put in place to ensure the safety of each participant, as well as providing a sense of order, giving us more time to enjoy activities and have fun learning new skills.

We ended the day with some physical exertion, where each mini trooper tackled our Challenge Course (seen in the above video). “I really enjoyed the course and hope we do it again, to beat my time of one minute 19 seconds” said MM

Personally, I always enjoy Induction Week; from the students arriving looking slightly nervous about meeting us, to seeing their faces light up when being issued their uniform. All the mini troopers showed great enthusiasm and we can’t wait to see how they will develop. We have started to see changes already – the teacher who accompanied the group said “I can’t get over the difference in JT, he never speaks out in class and it’s hard to keep him interested. I can’t believe how loud he has been today and he has impressed me how he dived into the Challenge Course – who knew he could be so fast, he flew through that course”.

WEEK 2: DISCOVERY WEEK

Building a better you – establishing your limitations and pushing your boundaries
Next week: I will be blogging about your mini troopers as they take on one of their toughest challenges as we put them through not just physical but mental exertions as they take on Discovery Week. Read week 2’s blog here 

If you would like further information on how our programmes support young people, please click here


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Posted: 13, January, 2016
by Sgt Bowen

Sgt Bowen is a Team Instructor in our North West Team. Formerly a Corporal in the Army Recruitment Team, after she had served for over ten years in the British Army Royal Corps of Transport where she was deployed to Germany, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and the Falkland Islands. She is passionate about making a positive difference to the lives of the young people she works with.

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"Outdoor learning is giving them back their childhood wonder and curiosity at new things, allowing them to experience the marvel of discovery and the learning that comes from taking risks"

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