Junior Leaders – It’s a State of Mind

For the past 8 months I’ve been attending the ATC’s most physically demanding and rewarding course in the Corps. The Junior Leader’s (JL) Course.

The JL Course is made up of various leadership activities, field craft training, battle tactics, fitness tests, stag rotations and top notch banter.

The course is divided into four parts;

‘Selection’ starts in September and is where you prove to the staff that you are willing and capable of attending the course. It consists of tests on your fitness, navigation, basic field craft knowledge, leadership skills, presentation skills and an interview. If successful in these tests you will then be accepted on to the Junior Leaders Course. You are then issued with your uniform and other course kit & equipment to take home.

Phase 1 is when you start your training. It is made up of four weekends which will take you up to the Winter Term. You learn about different leadership styles and start putting them to use during command tasks. You learn how to give a presentation, about correct radio conduct and learn how to use the L85 A2 which is the fully automatic variant of the L98 A2 that you use throughout the course. This is accompanied by further tests on your ability in different areas such as a 15-minute presentation, more fitness tests and multiple Section Commander Evaluations.

Starting in the New Year. Phase 2 is when you leave the warmth of a building block and spend another four weekends living in the field fully self-reliant sleeping with your rifle as a pillow. This is when you will take what you have learnt in phase one and apply it into the field. Honing your skills as both a leader and a subordinate in a combat environment. You will learn how to patrol, set up an ambush, carry out section attacks and the horrors of waking up to your basha buddy telling you “it’s your turn on stag”. Once again you will be assessed on every aspect, with regular tests on your fitness and ability to lead your section to achieve any goal set. At the end of phase 2 you will have the pre-deployment weekend where you will be assessed on every aspect of the course to date before ‘Test Week’. Failure to successfully pass these assessments means the end of the road and all of your training will have been for nothing.

The Final Phase is the week long field exercise. Which will put all of the skills that you have learned from the staff to the test. You will need to carry out patrols and attacks on enemy positions and targets, using blank firing rounds and smoke grenades. You will need to adapt to the situation at hand and lead your men/women to the end of the week. After surviving the gruelling 7-day hell, you will be awarded you iconic maroon lanyard and DZ patch and attend the JL Graduation Dinner.

Junior Leaders has been the most challenging experience I have had in my Cadet career and I have gained so much from it, along with great memories and brilliant friends. To anyone who is looking to move into a military career or just wanting to challenge themselves I would strongly recommend them to apply for the course. But make sure you are determined as out of the 130 cadets who applied only 55 graduated as Qualified Junior Leaders (QJL).


QJL CWO D Bagnall