Like-father-like-daughter Northampton volunteer follows dads footsteps to become cadet

A woman from Northampton has followed in her dad’s footsteps by joining the Army Cadet Force (ACF) which has become a second family for her over the last 25 years.

Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 12:25 pm
Maria pictured as a cadet with her father.

Major Maria Walding, 39, who grew up in St James, has been involved with the ACF since she was born before bagging the highest achievements as a cadet and then going on to inspire cadets as an adult volunteer for 20 years.

Maria said: “When I was born in 1979 my father was in the ACF so you could say I was born into the organisation. I grew up around the ACF and eventually joined as a cadet when I was old enough.”

As a cadet, Maria pursued every opportunity available to her but found the people she met kept her coming back week after week.

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Maria has been an adult volunteer for 20 years, inspiring a whole new generation of cadets.

She added: “I was in the Corps of Drums and have many fond memories of parades and performances over the years. I progressed to Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major, achieving Master Cadet and a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award along the way.

“The ACF has been a huge part of my life where I have made lifelong friends some of whom are as close as family.”

In 1999, Maria decided to support the organisation that had given her so much by becoming an adult volunteer - just like her dad.

She stated: “He retired from the ACF shortly after I became an adult volunteer but I followed in his footsteps in many ways, taking on nearly all the jobs that he had done during his time.”

Maria being presented with her commission.

Maria was a very busy adult volunteer and was involved in almost every aspect of cadets. She has been a detachment commander, Duke of Edinburgh officer, area training sergeant major, company sergeant major and a company commander.

Since hanging up her pace stick and getting commissioned in 2012, Maria has held even more senior roles in the ACF, including taking on command of the Corps of Drums.

She explained: “My greatest achievement was to have over 50 musicians, both cadets and adult volunteers, on parade at annual camp and to have representatives from all six areas within the county. Since then, the Corps of Drums across the county has flourished and continues to parade over 50 musicians.”

The revitalisation of the Corps of Drums is far from Maria’s only achievement.

She said: “I have gained lots of important qualifications, I can assess and supervise Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, I have become a canoeing instructor and I’ve learned to ski but one massive achievement for me was completing the City & Guilds Licentiateship, this was a massive deal for someone who left school with only GCSEs.”

Maria has now been in the ACF for more than 20 years, she has earned her Cadet Force Medal and this wouldn’t have been possible if the ACF didn’t open membership up to women just as Maria was born in 1979.

Maria concluded: “The ACF has been a part of my life for a majority of the 40 years I have been alive. The ACF has shaped most of my life and has been the reason I have achieved so much at work and at home.

“If women were not allowed to join the ACF the year I was born I would not have gained the qualifications I have, I would not have met my partner and I would not have two gorgeous god daughters, who belong to very close friends I have met in the ACF. I have a lot to owe the ACF and am grateful for the opportunities it has given me.”