Trophy for Fulham's 344 Squadron

Teenage Air Cadets took part in best overseas expedition

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344 (Fulham) Squadron

Expedition Blue Falcon

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Fulham’s 344 Squadron, Air Training Corps have been awarded the Shackleton Trophy.

This coveted trophy is awarded by the Shackleton Foundation, the organisation celebrating the legacy of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, to the ATC Squadron which undertakes the best overseas expedition.

The trophy was presented to the Squadron by Air Chief Marshal, Sir David Parry-Evans at a special ceremony on Saturday May 9 attended by the teenage Cadets, their parents, and military and local dignitaries.

Expedition Blue Falcon, which took place in April last year, was a 14 day trip to Sri Lanka which saw a team of 15 cadets and five members of staff taking part in a wide range of physically challenging and fascinating cultural activities.

These included a three day, 37 mile jungle trek where the Cadets faced new wildlife, nature and survival techniques and a two day charitable project in a developing community still suffering after the Tsunami.

Sir David Parry-Evans, Air Chief Marshall was struck by the planning, effort and sheer hard work that had gone into making the expedition such a success. Having spent time in Sri Lanka himself, he said: " I personally was enchanted by the island and its people and I was particularly gratified to hear that you went to Sri Lanka with the intention of helping people."

He warmly congratulated the Cadets, organizers and supporters on conducting such a worthwhile trip.

The expedition, organised by Flight Lieutenant Tony Piedade RAF VR(T), the Squadron’s Commanding Officer, achieved all of its objectives. The team wanted to: be Ambassadors for the United Kingdom and demonstrate all that is good about young people in Britain;

be culturally aware and learn from their host country; participate wholeheartedly in challenges that were presented to them and to navigate and explore a foreign, unfamiliar terrain and contribute to the host country through community involvement and projects.

Flight Lieutenant Piedade said: " The expedition was a tremendous success and I believe their experiences have had a very positive effect on each of the Cadets and us as Staff Members. They all had an enormous amount of fun, learnt new things about themselves and their new environment and above all learnt to work as a team."

For some of the Cadets it was their first long haul flight and first culturally challenging experience. Flight Sergeant Nikki Clark particularly enjoyed participating in the Community Project to renovate a school by gardening and repairing a gutter.

" The community project was so rewarding, knowing that we had made peoples’ that little bit happier," says Nikki, who is 18 and lives in Fulham. " I also enjoyed it because we got to meet Sri Lankan children and saw how they live and what they are like. They were such happy people and it made us realize how much we take things for granted.

" I had such an amazing time and met so many nice people. "

Among those attending the ceremony and meeting the Cadets were the Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham, Councillor Andrew Johnson, the Queen’s representative for the borough, Wing Commander Mike Dudgeon DL and Greg Hands, MP for Hammersmith and Fulham.

Supporters and sponsors of the expedition included the Jack Petchey Foundation, the Ulysees Trust, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Codemasters, Southwest Trains, Sri Lankan Airlines and The Worshipful Company of Mercers.

The ATC meets on Mondays and Wednesdays at 190 Hammersmith Road, W6 and is open to young people from all religions and nationalities aged between 13 and 18.

May 20, 2009