Young people in Carrickfergus are being encouraged to join the ranks of one of the borough’s long-established youth organisations.
The 2062 (Carrickfergus) Squadron Air Training Corps, one of 18 squadrons across Northern Ireland, offers a range of activities and training programmes for young people.
Based at Prince William Way in the borough, the Air Training Corps’ links with the borough stretch back to the mid-1950s.
“Carrickfergus has always has a strong military history so it’s great to have a squadron based in the town,” said Civilian Instructor Peter Mann.
“We have a healthy enough membership at the moment, about 20, but we’re always on the lookout for new members.
“Any young person, male or female, between the ages of 13 and 18 can get involved.”
The ATC’s comprehensive training programme covers everything from first aid and leadership courses to flying, gliding and even shooting.
“Cadets involved with the Air Training Corps have travelled all over the world, from various parts of Europe to Australia and Canada,” Peter added.
“Sports have always been a big thing for the ATC as well, giving our young people the chance to represent Northern Ireland in anything from hockey to rugby.”
Although not a recruiting organisation for the RAF, many cadets from the ATC go on to enjoy successful careers in the Services, including former cadet Paul McFarlane who was awarded the Military Cross in 2011.
Members of the 2062 Squadron are also heavily involved in charity events, in particular fundraising with Royal Air Force Association.
“We work quite closely with Wing Commander Noel Williams in doing things like bag packs for the Wings Appeal,” Peter said.
“This year the squadron is raising funds for the premature baby charity TinyLife.
“Parades and drill are a large part of what we do, and the squadron is always involved in Armed Forces Day in the town as well as the Battle of Britain parade.”
Meanwhile, the squadron will be lending a helping hand at next weekend’s parkrun in Carrickfergus.
Staff and cadets will be serving tea and coffee to runners at the finish line, with proceeds going towards squadron funds.
Peter added: “There are activities to suit all abilities; we tell any cadet who’s interested in doing something to put their name forward and they’ll get the chance at some point.
“There are a lot of other youth organisations, particularly in Carrickfergus, that we are competing with, but we provide structure and qualifications along with the kind of life experiences that you don’t get anywhere else.”
Any young person who is interested in joining the 2062 Squadron is asked to come along with a parent or guardian to the organisation’s headquarters on Mondays at 7:30pm.