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Thunder, heat: 500 Australian Army Cadets have had it all in Murray Bridge this week
An annual operation, Exercise Rising Sun, has been particularly eventful this year for the teenagers who’ve camped out at the Murray Bridge Training Area.
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Five hundred Australian Army Cadets have spent the past week camped out east of Murray Bridge – and what a week it has been.
From scorching heat to thunder and rain, the teenagers have experienced it all during their stay at the Murray Bridge Training Area (MUTA).
Exercise Rising Sun took cadets from around South Australia, all of whom had joined in the past nine months, and sent them out bush.
As well as camping out, in dormitory tents and then in swags, the cadets have had opportunities to take workshops in first aid, engineering, robotics, survival – almost any topic that might take their interest.
More importantly, though, they experienced it all together.
That’s what being an Army cadet was all about, Cadet Under Officer Saxon McDonald said.
“Cadets is the kind of place you can learn to put yourself out of your comfort zone and make new friends,” he said.
“Some of the people you meet here you’ll know for the rest of your life.”
He originally joined the cadets as a 13-year-old who had wanted try some new things.
He quickly became interested in team-building and leadership, and rose through the ranks as a section commander, then a platoon commander, then an operations Warrant Officer, then his present rank with the cadets’ Adelaide battalion.
In what other scenario would a 17-year-old find himself managing – alongside staff – 500 of his peers?
Despite the name, Australian Army Cadets do not do anything very soldier-ish, aside from wearing camouflage uniforms and using Army facilities such as MUTA.
There might be a bit of friendly competition between cadets, but no-one is ever an enemy – they leave that to the regular Army and Army Reserve.
Rather, AAC is a youth development organisation, one dedicated to helping young people aged 13 to 18 become the best versions of themselves.
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“I’ve seen some really amazing changes in people,” Saxon said.
“For young people, school is their life – they don’t really have much outside of school, so if they get bullied at school, that’s their whole entire life gone.
“For people to have another thing to go to, like cadets, it’s a whole new environment … (where) we really try to support people.”
In years to come he hoped to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, and maybe even join “A-res” – the Army Reserve – as an engineer.
Wherever life took him, though, he would always remember his years in the cadets.
More information about the 45 Army Cadet Unit, Murray Bridge: Visit www.armycadets.gov.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 8532 1570 or attend a training night from 6.30-9.45pm on a Tuesday at the AAC depot on Caroline Street.
See more photos: Search for Australian Army Cadets – South Australia Brigade on Facebook.