How to Join the Army Cadets

Three Methods:Deciding if the ACF Is Right for YouJoining the ACF as a CadetJoining the ACF as a Volunteer

The Army Cadet Force (ACF) is a national youth organization in the United Kingdom that offers a wide range of activities to its members. Whether you are a teen considering becoming a Cadet or an adult thinking of volunteering, find out what the ACF is all about and become familiar with the process of joining before you decide.

Method 1
Deciding if the ACF Is Right for You

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    Know the history and current status of the Army Cadet Force (ACF). The ACF traces its history back to 1860, and has existed in its present form as a national youth organization since 1957. Today, roughly 41,000 cadets and 9,500 volunteers in over 1,600 locations across the UK make up the ACF.[1]
    • Cadet detachments typically meet twice a week in the evening, with the focal point of the year for most cadets being the two-week summer camp.
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    Discover the diverse training opportunities in the ACF. While the ACF does offer basic military-style training, including map-reading, outdoor skills, and shooting, it also includes community projects, sports and adventure training, and cultural activities.
    • Despite its historical ties, the ACF is not a recruiting arm of the British Armed Forces. It is not a requirement (but certainly a benefit) for those wanting to join the military, nor is it expected that cadets will choose to join the armed forces.[2]
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    Consider the ACF's goals for cadets. The ACF strives to instill skills including leadership, teamwork, confidence, self-reliance, respect, and other such skills that would benefit any young person.

Method 2
Joining the ACF as a Cadet

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    Visit the Army Cadet Force website. Here you will find a wide range of information about the ACF and have the opportunity to join.
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    Determine if you meet the criteria. Information is available on the website. Cadets must be between the ages of 12 and 18. Girls have been welcome to join the ACF since 1982. There is no UK citizenship requirement.
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    Find a detachment near you. Click the tab with that heading along the top of the ACF homepage, then enter your postcode or click on your location on the map. You will find links to detachment webpages with information more specific to that detachment.
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    Let the ACF know you want to join. Click the red "Join Today" button on the top right of the homepage, the "Become a Cadet" tab along the top of the homepage, or any similar links found throughout the main ACF and individual detachment websites.
    • Provide your name, contact information, date of birth, and postcode, and wait to be contacted about joining.
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    Prepare to attend your first detachment meeting. These are held twice weekly, usually start between 7:00 and 7:30 pm, and last for about 2 hours. Consult your local detachment website for more specific details.[3]
    • Wear casual but smart-looking clothes, a good pair of boots, and tie back long hair. Expect physical activity from the start.
    • There will likely be multiple "parades" where information and instructions will be given, separated by times spent at different activities like shooting, drilling, compass-reading, and so on. Senior and junior cadets may be separated at times, and perhaps divided into smaller groups within each.
    • Pay attention, try to make a good first impression, but don't forget to have fun!

Method 3
Joining the ACF as a Volunteer

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    Know the criteria to be a volunteer. They are simple -- you need to be between 18 and 55 years old. No particular skills are required and training is provided.
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    Consider how you can help. ACF adult volunteers assist in a wide range of activities, and even volunteers that can offer only limited weekly time commitments are welcome. Basically, if you want to help the young people of your community learn valuable skills, a place will be found for you.
    • Consult the ACF website for information on the wide array of skills they seek from volunteers, as well as examples of current volunteers with a variety of backgrounds and skill sets.
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    Let the ACF know you want to join. The process is virtually the same as that of a prospective cadet: research your local detachment; click one of the many "join" or "volunteer" tabs on the website; provide basic information about yourself; and also include information about your volunteering interests and past experience with the ACF (if applicable).
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    Wait to be contacted by your local ACF county headquarters. They may invite you to make a visit to meet current volunteers and discuss your interest in joining. Take advantage of this firsthand opportunity to see what your local ACF is all about.


  • While this article focuses on the ACF in the UK, there are similar youth organizations in other countries, including the Australian Army Cadets,[4] the New Zealand Cadet Corps,[5] and the Royal Canadian Army Cadets.[6]
  • It pays to look at your county's page; you can do this by clicking 'ACF Counties' in the bottom right corner of the page amongst the small links. It will forward you to a long list of all the ACF counties; simply find yours and click on it. This will then forward you to your county's website to have a look at features such as videos, galleries etc.
  • When you go to your first parade night (meeting), it's important to remember that first impressions count, so dress casual but smart. This could work in your favour if you're looking to stay in cadets in the long run and go through the ranks.
  • Be switched on. No one likes an inattentive recruit/cadet, so be ready for anything and listen carefully.


  • If anyone asks if you're cold or tired, say no. This may earn you and your fellow cadets push-ups or time running, and nobody will be happy with you.
  • The ACF isn't a recruiting strategy for the Armed Forces; there may be people there that are going to the Armed Forces but that's their choice, so don't feel that you have to join because you were an Army Cadet.

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Categories: Careers in the Military