Sophia: Honour ‘is for my squadron’
Published on: 30 Jun 2014
A STUDENT from Bromley Heath is flying high after being hailed a community hero for her work with the junior air cadets.
Sophia Gibbs was presented with an award by South Gloucestershire Council which recognised the valuable contribution she has made to her community.
The 17-year-old joined the junior air cadets when she was just 13 and is now a cadet flight sergeant responsible for encouraging and motivating more than 30 cadets in her squadron, the 2152 Detached Flight.
Sophia, who lives at home with mum Rachel, dad Ronnie and her 11-year-old sister Isabella, said: "I had a letter from South Gloucestershire Council telling me I had won the award and I was so happy and proud. I feel the award is for my whole squadron as they all work so hard. It's nice to think we have recognition for all the time and work we put in."
Sophia first became involved in the air cadets after watching a presentation at Downend School, where she is now a sixth-form student.
"I went along to the air cadets one night and didn't have a clue what to expect but I found I loved it and have now been there for three-and-a-half years," she said.
Sophia takes part in various activities with the air cadets including flying and gliding, parade nights, drill, playing drums in the wing band as well as numerous volunteering and community events, particularly raising money for the Great Western Air Ambulance.
Sophia is also taking advantage of the educational opportunities the air cadets offer and is currently working towards a BTEC qualification in public services.
Her squadron meets twice a week at both the Air Training Corps HQ in Filton and at St James Church Hall in Mangotsfield, although members take part in numerous weekend events.
"The rank system goes from corporal, sergeant, flight sergeant and cadet warrant officer," Sophia explained.
"At the moment I'm a flight sergeant which means on parade nights I take on a leadership role as a NCO (non-commissioned officer) and manage the discipline and standards of the cadets.
"That's what really motivates me - to help the cadets achieve and progress. It's nice to see new cadets start at 13 who are shy and see them develop new skills and really work towards their personal achievements. I really like being a role model to the younger cadets."
Sophia, who has a Duke of Edinburgh award under her belt as well as being short-listed for the prestigious Duke of Westminster award to find an outstanding armed forces cadet, said she would recommend the air cadets to young people.
"It's helped me develop a lot of skills," she said.
"The fact I'm a NCO has really boosted my leadership skills as well as team work and communication skills.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to develop yourself and it's really enjoyable at the same time."
One of the highlights of Sophia's career in the air cadets was laying a wreath at the Remembrance Service in Page Park.
"Remembrance Day is massively important to me. Last year I laid the wreath on behalf of the RAF. I felt very privileged to be asked to do it. It was amazing to see so many people come out to see the ceremony."
Sophia is studying A levels in business studies, geography and psychology after gaining 11 GCSEs.
Following her studies, Sophia hopes to become a logistics officer with the RAF.
Sophia was nominated for the award by flight sergeant Tom Watson.
* Sophia’s squadron are offering free first aid training at St James Church Hall in Mangotsfield on Saturday July 26 and Sunday July 27. There will be a course starting every hour on the hour from 9am-1pm. Anyone interested can just turn up.