Colonel (ACF) Lesley Deacon is the Commandant of Cambridgeshire Army Cadet Force (ACF) and the Deputy Chief Nurse with the CCG Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care Board.
A midwife with over 20 years’ experience, she is currently sitting for a PhD in Midwifery, Leadership and Career Pathways and has held positions from clinical to senior management posts in the NHS while still practicing as a midwife when time allows. Colonel (ACF) Lesley Deacon also has more than 32 years’ experience in the ACF, having joined the Watford detachment at the age of 13.
What draws you to take on the role of Commandant, as well as your other work & study commitments?
Col Deacon’ s determination and dedication to the ACF is fuelled by the conviction that she and her team can deliver a cadet experience in Cambridgeshire that enables cadets to become mature adults who are ready for work and adulthood, forging life-long friendships along the way, just like she experienced during her time with the ACF.
At Cambridgeshire ACF, Cadets are offered a fun, interactive training environment for them to complete their APC qualifications. The Commandant added: “I wanted to make sure that the cadets opinions and suggestions were heard and fed into the top team, so that we could offer the activities that they wanted if these were possible.”
The role of Commandant is a demanding one, responsible for creating and sustaining a professional and motivated team that is able, through the chain of command, to deliver a safe and engaging cadet experience in Cambridgeshire, supported by increasingly capable, sustainable and resilient administrative, welfare and logistic systems. Lesley added: “The Commandant’s role provides me, along with my senior team, with the opportunity to shape the direction and successes of the county ACF.”
Her Deputy Commandant (Cadets) supports her in overseeing that the training given to Cadets is in accordance with the ACF manual, and is streamlined alongside the syllabus. The command team also ensures that the detachments, companies and county are working together to offer equal access to all opportunities offered by the ACF. Other County ACF roles, each with their own delegated responsibilities, contribute to delivering the best cadet experience for young people.
Cambridgeshire Army Cadet Force operates thirty locations across the county for the benefit of young people. Cambridgeshire ACF is supported by a small team of RFCA Permanent Support Staff (PSS), who deliver the administration of the membership of cadets and the adults who train them, provide logistics of equipment and fleet, and clerical support to enable the Cadet Force Adult Volunteers (CFAV) to deliver cadet training.
Can you tell me about some successes you’ve enjoyed in the role of Commandant?
Col Deacon’s ACF county is thriving:
- Cadet and Adult first aid teams won the national championships, coming third and second in the tri-service competition respectively.
- One of the county’s senior cadets became national champion in clay pigeon shooting.
- Cambridgeshire ACF increased its numbers to over 800 cadets and 200 adults. (an increase of 5% and 12% respectively compared with 2018)
- Cambridgeshire ACF resumed all face to face training and residential camps.
The Commandant is a member of the RFCA Joint Cadet Committee (JCC) and RFCA Cambridgeshire forum
As an ex-officio member of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association by merit of her role as Commandant of Cambridgeshire ACF, Col Deacon benefits from sitting on the East Anglia RFCA Joint Cadet Committee (JCC) and the Cambridgeshire RFCA forum.
The two forums offer Col Deacon and her fellow ACF Commandants in the region the opportunity to network with employers, other youth organisations and voluntary sectors to support the activities and wider experience of the ACF to the cadets.
The RFCA’s JCC encourages leaders of all the Cadet organisations in the region to share experiences and discuss topical issues such as Estates matters or upcoming celebrations in order to facilitate a joined up approach to improving the wellbeing of the cadets in the region.
The RFCA County forums are distinct from the JCC in that their membership is broader but contained to the county RFCA members (rather than regional); an RFCA County forum meeting includes representatives from all the Cadet Forces in the county and also Reserve Forces Commanding Officers, employer representatives and local authority representatives. Any forum member can table an upcoming issue or opportunity to identify synergies, and members work together to ensure the Reserve Forces and Cadet organisations in their county continue to thrive.
The forums also informs the Commandant of matters arising on a national/larger scale: “I can plan for the future with the knowledge I obtain at these forums,” the Commandant revealed.