Air Cadet, Flight Sergeant Alex McGowan, of 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron, earned the opportunity to visit the USA as part of the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) programme.
Alex, 18, along with cadets from other countries, including Belgium, New Zealand, China and Canada, experienced a road trip style visit, starting in Washington DC before flying to Kalispell, Montana via Denver, Colorado and travelled back down through Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado over a 2-week period.
En route to Colorado, Alex and his colleagues visited US Air Force bases Malmstrom, Hill, and the USAF academy and took in the fantastic landscapes of the Rockies region. There were plenty of activities planned, including city visits to Salt Lake City with its iconic Temple Square and Utah State Capitol Building.
Other planned activities were visits to Glacier, Yellowstone and Arches national parks, a shooting gallery, Cesna flights, lava hot springs spa pools, a leadership and obstacle course and a visit to a Salt Lake City Bees baseball game, as well as making new friends with the local air cadet units throughout the country.
Late into the visit, a reception was put on for the IACE participants, where Alex met dignitaries such as Major General Mark Smith, the National Commander of the Civil Air Patrol.
IACE isn’t like the normal cadet overseas camp or visit, where young people live on an RAF base throughout the activity. In this case, Alex spent time living with a host family, who kindly gave their time to help him experience life in their country.
When asked of his overseas adventure, Alex said; “I’ve been really lucky in the experiences and opportunities I’ve had in the Air Cadets. IACE is among the best as I enjoyed representing my country, the organisation and my squadron. It was great to tell the American cadets and my host family about Longbenton Squadron and what we do.
They couldn't believe the opportunities available on squadron and within RAF Air Cadets! It was an immense privilege and something I was incredibly proud to have been selected for.
“The best part for me personally was the flight over and drive in to Glacier National Park. The Scenery was absolutely breath-taking and I could have happily spent the whole two weeks in that one national park just going round and exploring the area."
The Longbenton Air Cadet Squadron is currently open to new members in Year 8 and above. Please visit www.2344.org.uk