After two years of planning and fundraising Air Cadets from 2262 (Bexhill), and 88 (Battle), had the adventure of a lifetime with an exchange visit down under.
The trip came about after parents of a Sussex Cadet and Corporal Annie Rutyna of the Australian Air Force Cadets met in Fiji a few years ago. This chance meeting was to culminate in a memorable exchange visit to the Sunshine Coast this Summer led by Flight Lieutenant Maria Muggridge with 26 cadets and staff from 88 (Battle), 2262 (Bexhill), 176 (Hove) and 45F (Worthing) Squadrons.
Along with individual fundraising the 15 day visit was also made possible with a grant from the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and South East Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (SERFCA).
The group were based at the Maroochy Waterfront Camp and Conference Centre in Maroochydore (MWCC) and were hosted by 207 Squadron in Nambour where Corporal Annie Rutyna is based.
Cpl Rutyna says the group settled in well. “I have been most impressed at the attitude and willingness to adapt to the 207 Squadron way of life,” she said.
A packed programme was arranged with many daytime activities around Sunshine Coast landmarks. This included a visit to Buderim to observe and participate in the Gubbi Gubbi Indigenous programme, including dance, history, a sample of their foods, and to spend the night under the stars.
A navigation exercise in and around the Australian Bush was held the next day. Cpl Rutyna said: “This visit gave an opportunity to discover all sorts of flora, as well as seeing kangaroos in their wild habitat.”
Highlights of the trip included a walk to the top of Mount Coolum. At 208 metres high it has breathtaking views under clear blue sky out to sea. Hosted by RAAF Base Amberley an internal flight from Maroochydore to Sydney preceded a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb which Cpl Rutyna says turned out to be a very special occasion for one couple.
“At the top of the bridge, to the delight of all those present, and in the pouring rain, Cadet Warrant Officer Ben Jones proposed to CWO Paige Jordan-Evans (both of 176 (Hove) Squadron).
“The MWCC provided a cake and soft drinks to toast the happy couple that evening after the return flight from Sydney.”
Social activities included an evening of bowling with local Navy Cadets and 207 Sqn AAFC, a water activity day of canoeing, kayaking and dragon boating, with the traditional Aussie BBQ being cooked by Sussex staff, Pilot Officer Simon Bacon, Officer Commanding 45F (Worthing) Squadron and Civilian Instructor Jordan Smith of 88 (Battle) Squadron.
The culmination of the visit for the Group was to be invited to the 207 Squadron dining in night, a chance for all cadets and staff to dress up in their finest and to experience the Australian version of ‘dining in’.
Sgt Matthew Standen of 2262 (Bexhill) Sqn says it was an amazing trip. “I cannot truly do justice to a description of this trip,” he said. “The sights, activities and memories made in this short time will live on with us forever; truly an adventure of a lifetime.”
Cdt Richard Baggs of 88 (Battle) Sqn said it had been a great culture exchange for both countries, adding: “To undertake such amazing experiences, from living in the bush to meeting the Australian Cadets, truly has been a life changer.”
Flt Lt Maria Muggridge says it was an absolutely fantastic and amazing trip of a lifetime. “This was made possible in no small part by Cpl Annie Rutyna of 207 Sqn Australian Air Force Cadets and her team of dedicated staff from 2 Wing AAFC, she said. “I look forward to returning the compliment when they visit us in the future.”