Volunteers’ Week colleague story – Steve Townell

For Volunteers’ Week, we’re shining a light on one of our colleagues’ inspiring contributions to his community; thank you Steve Townell!
Steve has volunteered at the Suffolk Show for 11 years. He coordinates a group of 60 cadet volunteers aged 14 up, who over the course of three days rotate duties from 6am to 8pm to help make the Suffolk Show run smoothly for the thousands of visitors who flock there each year.

Steve Townell at CAAs conference at Waterbeach

Steve Townell is a Cadet Administrative Assistant for East Anglia RFCA, he’s assigned to C Company Suffolk Army Cadet Force and his day job involves making sure equipment, vehicles and supplies are all orgniased for normal cadet training activities.

“Over the two Show days, I’ll walk about 20 kilometers, visiting the cadet posts and then back to the command and control Centre”, Steve says.
The work starts well ahead of the show dates though; cadet volunteers from A, B and C Company Suffolk Army Cadet Force and beyond are offered a chance to take part, months in advance. Steve posts the opportunity on the ACF training and events site, called Westminster.

As the day draws near, Steve prepares the logistics that will enable all volunteer cadets to camp on site for 3 days. The event is known to be a convivial and unique experience, highly enjoyed by everyone who takes part.

On Setup day, Steve arranges two Cadet busses and drivers plus one of the vans and trailers to help bring equipment and supplies. The day starts with a full formal briefing, led by Steve, to make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them. Every year, there’s a good mix of new and returning volunteers to support Steve and the Suffolk Show. Final changes to the tasks and timings matrix, a big board displayed in the Command and Control tent, are made to account for any last minute information. “I’ve been in the Armed Forces since 1971, first as a Regular then as a Reservist, and the numerous taskings over the 2 days requires a fairly comprehensive matrix; challenging but always achievable.” says Steve, who’s worked at East Anglia RFCA for 11 years.

During both days of the Suffolk Show, cadets taking part in a range of activities including manning gates, helping in the show rings and of course helping with running the stand in the Suffolk Show’s military village. During the show’s normal operating hours, Ipswich Town FC provide stewards, so the cadets cover this function Out of Hours only. The Suffolk Royal Agricultural Society, who are the organisers of the Suffolk Show, provide food and a donation the Suffolk ACF for their support to the Show.

cAdets at the Suffolk Show 2023

Steve ensures the cadets receive recognition for their hard work and dedication; he puts participating cadets forward to the ACF County Training Officer for the Cadet and the Community part of the ACF syllabus, and participating Junior NCO’s can get a 2* or 3* for taking part.

Each cadet is assigned a number, seen on the show badges they wear. Their number is the identifier that’s used to assign them tasks on the board; they’ll typically be assigned to a post for two hours then have a break to enjoy the event.

Cadet face-painting a young visitor to the military zone at the Suffolk show

The volunteering ethos runs deep at East Anglia RFCA.

Steve’s volunteering story is meaningful and well-known amongst his colleagues. He’s not alone in stepping forward to help his community at the RFCA; a significant proportion of RFCA staff volunteer outside of work as well. At the highest levels of the Association’s governance even, the Executive Board and co-opted members of the RFCA are all volunteer roles. The President and Vice-Presidents of the Association, the Lord-Lieutenants of the counties in our region, are volunteers.

RFCA members keenly promote volunteering, especially adult volunteering opportunities in the Cadet Forces, in their respective counties. Suffolk’s Youth steering group, Norfolk’s Joint Cadet Committee, Bedfordshire Youth United are examples of the effort that goes into understanding and overcoming barriers to volunteering and drawing on best practice and sharing opportunities across multiple youth organisations.

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