Since she was 11, Aeron Cornell has known she wanted to be in the Royal Air Force. She does not know quite what sparked off this ambition. But seven years on it burns just as brightly.

Aeron is well on the way to fulfilling this dream. And the air force should be happy to welcome her. She has proved herself to be a high-flier since joining the York Air Training Corps (ATC) at the age of 13.

In the last five years Aeron has clocked up an impressive list of achievements: she has attended seven camps at RAF stations in Britain as well as in Gibraltar and Germany; undertaken adventure training at Windermere; secured her bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh awards; completed a gliding course; and represented her squadron in several sports.

Now, as Flight Sergeant Cornell, she is flight commander for the squadron, in charge of 30 cadets. Furthermore she was chosen from the whole of North Yorkshire's ATCs to be a Lord Lieutenant's Cadet, attending official functions such as the visit of Princess Margaret to York.

If that wasn't enough, this year she hopes to complete her gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and represent the corps on a two-week exchange visit to Canada.

With all this activity it is hard to believe she has had time to also complete her GCSEs then take an advanced engineering course at York College of Further and Higher Education. It's all a matter of time management, she says.

At tonight's reception honouring the Cadet Forces, organised on behalf of the Lord Mayor Mick Bradley, Flt Sgt Cornell will speak of the immense enjoyment she has gained from the ATC.

Among those listening will be York business leaders; magistrates; senior police officers; and secondary school head teachers and governors. The idea is both to celebrate and raise the profile of the work of the cadets in the city.

Flt Sgt Cornell believes that being a cadet can complement the work of a school. "Cadets give you an element of discipline," she said. "It teaches you how to respect your seniors."

One of those seniors is her mother, Gill, who Aeron persuaded to become an officer with the ATC 18 months ago.

For Ben Drummond the family connection was the other way around. His father had been in the Sea Cadets as a youngster, and had so much fun that he suggested Ben join.

Five years later, he is a Leading Cadet and will represent the 60 year old corps at the Mansion House tonight.

Unlike Aeron, he entertains no ambitions of going into the forces. Instead 15-year-old Ben aims to complete his GCSEs at Easingwold School, do A-levels and secure a place at university to read law. But he has still gained greatly from his time with the York Sea Cadets, a fact he tries to impress upon his school friends."

Ben picks out his time working on board HMS York as a highlight. And later in the year he hopes to go on a week-long leadership course at Dartmouth. Sea Cadets also give their time to help charities, collecting for the poppy appeal on behalf of the Royal British Legion and helping with events for the Guide Dogs For The Blind.

The Sea Cadets' motto is right, he says: "Serious Fun".

In a few months' time Sergeant Paul Young, 16, will be a member of the British Army. He has come a long way since he joined the Army Cadets in 1993 because he thought it would be "a laugh and a joke".

Sgt Young, who will also address tonight's reception, has attended three annual camps. During a trip to the Pyrenees mountains, he and his fellow army cadets climbed a total of 30,000 feet and walked 75 miles.

Activities like these are helping York Army Cadets to thrive. There are already three detachments, Fulford, Burton Stone Lane and Strensall, but demand is such that a new one, in Acomb, is about to be launched.

Group Captain Bill Gambold, regional commandant north for the Air Cadets, said: "We're trying to get across is what added value you give to teenagers by their being cadets. One of the things we are trying to emphasise is we are not recruiting for the military. We are trying to produce good citizens."Adults are needed to become cadet officers. If you are interested contact Lt Cdr David Dennis on (01943) 875608

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