Chief of the General Staff (CGS), General Sir Peter Wall, has inspected the largest military graduation parade in Europe at the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Harrogate.
Nearly 700 Junior Soldiers marched onto the parade ground at Uniacke Barracks, North Yorkshire, in front of thousands of their relatives and friends, as they graduated following an intense 12 months’ training.
The ‘passing out’ at Harrogate is the largest parade in the British Army after Trooping the Colour, and Europe’s largest military graduation.
General Wall inspected the students, who started at the AFC in September last year, and took the salute upon their graduation. The Junior Soldiers were closely watched by the college’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Khashi Sharifi, and members of his staff.
Cambrai, Peninsula and Waterloo Companies marched onto the parade square, led by the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band. Following the inspection and salute, prizes were awarded to the best students.
The prize for the best Junior Soldier in the intake was won by Junior Sergeant Major Jack Dymond from Torrington in Devon. He gave the commands to march the 700 soldiers off the parade ground.
The Junior Soldiers, who have undergone a 12-month course in a unique combination of military skills and vocational qualifications, will now move on to Phase 2 training in their chosen trades or specialisms.
Over the past 12 months they have had the opportunity to achieve a City and Guilds apprenticeship for Information Technology users at Level 2, incorporating Functional Skills. Many have also achieved Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.
General Wall said:
Today is a proud day for the Army. It is not every day that we receive 700 people of such high standing into the next stage of their Army training.
It is a proud day also for the soldiers in Cambrai, Peninsula and Waterloo Companies who are passing off today after a tough, challenging but successful 42-week course.
CGS went on to thank the AFC staff for their work and support:
This may not be combat or front line but the work is just as vital as it is our investment in the future generation. It is always hard, painstaking work and it requires immense commitment of instructors, support staff and their families.
It is a proud day for the families sitting in the stands who a year or so ago brought you here - those of you on parade - to start this important stage in your lives. They will have seen you change considerably over the period of the course - certainly for the better.
The General thanked the families for their support of the Junior Soldiers throughout their training and said all soldiers depended on the support of their families throughout their careers.
Addressing the Junior Soldiers, he continued:
You would not be here now if you were not ready for the challenge. In return the Army will offer you tremendous opportunity. As you know the Army deploys people in various roles in over 30 countries and more recently at home we supported the Olympics and prepared for numerous other standby tasks. The future is going to be no different.
Junior Soldiers work on their leadership and team skills as part of the AFC’s personal and team development package. They undertake a number of adventurous training activities, as well as physical and mental challenges, culminating in a 30-hour challenge patrol across the Yorkshire Dales. The students are also given the opportunity to sample a wide variety of sports promoting fitness and agility.
The Junior Soldiers had just returned from an arduous ten-day final exercise in Garelochhead, Scotland; the culmination of their fieldcraft and military skills training.
The college opened in 1998 and provides training for soldiers destined for all the Army’s many career paths. It now provides training for 1,344 Junior Soldiers, taking in students twice-a-year in September and March.