Kirriemuir teenager Joe McKinney is looking forward to getting back to school for a rest today (Wednesday).
The Webster’s High pupil has just completed the arduous Devil Pups programme in California, where he was awarded a prize for leadership, and invited to return for the even more challenging Eagle camp next year. The camp is run by the US Marine Corps and based on a large marine base, Camp Pendleton, in California. Joe was there as part of a contingent of the Angus and Dundee Army Cadet Force, where he is currently Sergeant Major (CSM).
He said: “It was amazing. As soon as we got there, everyone got the marine jar head buzz cut. Then we were split up into groups and had to do a fitness test. We were pulled out of cars, sitting on a rope. There were huge marines helping us out, but it was a real challenge.”
Every day the 300 pups were given a set of obstacles to overcome, physical and mental challenges to face and Joe was glad to have his Army Cadet Force training to fall back on. “There was a 35 foot tower. You were attached to a line, but didn’t hold onto it. Then you had you cross your arms and shout as you were launched off the tower. I shouted freedom as everyone thought I sounded like Braveheart. But it got a bit more difficult when they were in the classroom. They were talking about World War Two and they would ask when it started and what the important battles were. I soon learned that my answers weren’t quite the same as the American ones.” The highlight was when they camped out. “We slept out under the stars. All the others thought it was freezing, but I was really warm. They’d never last camping at Barry Buddon. Although not everything was easier there. At Barry you have midgies, but there, we caught a tarantula spider in the net. It was enormous.”
On his return, Joe, who hopes to study maths at university, was told he had been promoted to CSM.
“I’d recommend it to everyone, on the last day, when you climb up to the top of the hill with all your troop, it really gives you such a sense of achievement. Getting the leadership award and the chance to return next year really showed me how the ACF had helped me develop myself.”
Col Drew Cassidy, of Angus and Dundee Battalion ACF said: “It is a different experience, and allows the cadets to learn more about other cultures. We are very proud Joe showed the US Marines what the ACF can do.” The Army Cadet Force is always looking for more cadets - call 01382 533349.