A Sussex Wing expedition has earned national recognition from the Ulysses Trust as their 2016 expedition of the year. Exercise YUKON ADVENTURE was a demanding expedition which saw 8 cadets and 4 staff from Sussex Wing, spend 10 days canoeing 369km down the Yukon, led by Flight Lieutenant Dave Hill. This self-sufficient and ambitious canoe expedition was 2 years in the planning and required the team to undertake over a 12 months’ preparatory training.

The cadets also undertook an extensive fundraising programme which not only helped underpin the funding of the expedition but also helped to teach them the importance of budgets.   One of the key aims of the expedition was to develop educational as well as physical experiences, in an environment which allowed the air cadets to develop their skills of communication, leadership, teamwork and self-confidence.

What the cadets thought

The expedition report highlights the true expeditionary nature of the trip, stating that; “As we were packing the boats the enormity of the task and the potential risks hit home, on the journey in we saw two black bears running along the side of the road and when the van drove off it was just us and our equipment for ten days. As we readied to set off, there was a mixture of excitement and apprehension in the team especially with the wind picking up a little and a lake paddle not unlike Loch Ness, just bigger!!”

In summarising the expedition the expedition leader Flight Lieutenant Hill wrote ‘the whole trip went to plan which was largely due to our preparation, training and the team spirit within our group. The trip proved that you can take well prepared and motivated groups into remote, hostile environments and they can take the mental, physical and technical challenges in their stride.’  But tellingly in the separate reflections note produced by Sussex Wing, statements from the cadets included ‘the trip has affected me as an individual by highlighting the simplicity of life.  We have just spent 10 days in the wilderness, with little communication and the illusion of a life without technology and social status.’  Another cadet reflected that the trip ‘has proved to myself a lot about my resilience when faced with a challenge, shown by injury and being able to push through.’ 

An expedition with life-changing impact

But one cadet summed up perfectly the importance of the Ulysses Trust outcomes when he wrote;  “It’s changed what I want to do with my life!  I’ve loved having the challenge and it’s made me want to push myself even further as an individual and a leader… because of this, I’m now looking to join the Armed Services as an Officer.  This trip has been a great opportunity for personal development, and can’t wait to bring that back to my squadron.”

Exercise YUKON expedition

The demanding and unique nature of the expedition and the work undertaken by both the cadets and staff make it an extremely worthy recipient of this year’s Award.

Squadrons and Wings can find more information about grants available for expeditions, from the Ulysses Trust.