Long Eaton Air Cadet travels to America for historic exchange

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Cadet Sergeant James Bland

A teenager from Long Eaton has been given the chance of a lifetime to be an ambassador for the UK in America through a new scheme set up in memory of the late MP Jo Cox.

Cadet Sergeant James Bland, a member of 2195 (Long Eaton) Squadron of the Air Training Corps, is one of just 20 under 23s selected from thousands of applicants for the first ever Jo Cox Memorial Exchange Programme being organised by the United States Embassy in the United Kingdom.

The 17-year-old travelled to America on Monday, 14 August and over two weeks will meet dignitaries and influential figures in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.

By talking to politicians, leading businessmen and activists James is hoping to get further inspiration for a scheme he and 2195 Squadron are about to launch to provide sports equipment to local youth groups and schools.

By providing more opportunities the scheme aims to promote social cohesion, hope and inclusion in the town and therefore reflects the aim of the Jo Cox Memorial Exchange.

James, who is currently studying A-Levels at Nottingham College, has been an Air Cadet for four-years and hopes to become a pilot with the Royal Air Force.

Before flying out he said: “It was a shock when I heard I had been accepted for the exchange. I thought my mum was pulling my leg for a start.

“I’m really excited about it. I don’t think I would ever be able to have gone to America now without something like this so it’s a huge opportunity.

“We will be meeting people from massive corporations and groups. They want to hear our ideas and we want to hear their ideas and it’s about swapping information and seeing what we can bring back.

“I’m looking forward to learning new things, particularly as I’ve never really been political. We’ll be learning about social inclusion in America, and, as Jo Cox said, ‘there’s more in common than what divides us’.

“The whole project lasts until December and I will have to show how I’ve implemented what I’ve learned from the exchange into the sports project when it launches in the autumn.

“I’m going to have to stand up and show what the Air Cadets offer.”

Adult volunteers with 2195 Squadron nominated James for the award due to his community work. He is the only Air Cadet selected for the scheme.

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Flight Lieutenant Lawrence Buckingham congratulates Cadet Sergeant James Bland

Flight Lieutenant Lawrence Buckingham, the Officer Commanding of 2195 Squadron, said: “Sergeant James Bland is an ever-enthusiastic individual who has spent his time in the RAF Air Cadets seeking out ever greater challenges

“This has taken him to various charity and fundraising activities, drawing support from the cadets and staff on the Squadron to go out and support the community.

“It is excellent that his efforts have been recognised and rewarded through the Jo Cox Memorial Fund. Sergeant Bland has an exciting future ahead of him and this exchange will hopefully inspire and challenge him further.”

The Air Training Corps is a youth organisation aimed at young people at least 12-years old and in school Year Eight.

The Air Cadets gives a second-to-none experience where you can make lasting friendships and build upon your confidence, skills and achievements.

You can get involved with flying, gliding, adventure training, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award or compete in a range of sports, target shooting or drill you can even represent the corps or the country