Cadet Warrent Officer Alex Dutch has just returned from the trip of a lifetime as part of the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) scheme. This allows cadets for national air cadets organisations around the world to spend 2 weeks with another countries air cadet organisation, Air Force and host families for a unique insight into the visited country. As the cadets are Ambassadors for their country they are carefully selected and 241 has had more than its fair share of these trips over the last two decades with cadets visiting India, Australia, America, Canada, Norway and Holland to name a few. Alex was selected to visit Israel, and her report is below:
“My trip began with travelling to Brunel University in London to meet the other Cadets going on different Exchanges all over the world. I met the other 7 cadets and escort officer who I would be going to Israel with, and then we left for Heathrow airport for the 5 hour flight to Israel feeling anxious and excited about the next 2 and a half weeks.
The minute we stepped off the plane, we were hit by the heat. It was extremely hot and humid, a climate that we would learn to adjust to over the next two weeks. We were greeted by Yinon, our coordinator, who was very friendly and greeted us kindly. He is a member of the reserves of the Israeli Air Force, of which we were treated as VIP guests. Over the period of our stay we would become thoroughly acquainted with the Israeli Air Force and Israel’s military system in general. That day we met the delegations from the other countries: the United States, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Canada and the Netherlands. It was also the first time we met our hosting families.
Over the following two weeks we had the opportunity to travel all over the country. The balance between the military aspect of the trip and touring was well maintained throughout our stay. We stayed overnight at a number of air force bases, toured the facilities, had presentations, went to museums and met the personnel that worked on the bases. Our group always had with us a military photographer, medic, armed guards and soldiers from the department of foreign affairs.
Despite all of the controversy surrounding Israel and the conflict area that it finds itself in, I never once felt unsafe or scared, we were completely looked after and well taken care of. In terms of touring, we did a number of exciting things and saw the most beautiful places. We visited the Beit Guvrin caves, Masada, the Dead, Red and Mediterranean seas, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Knesset (parliament), the Holocaust Memorial Museum “Yad va Shem”, the Bahaian gardens of Haifa, the Arbel nature reserve, the Golan heights and winery, the Tel-Aviv markets, Old Jaffa, and the resort city of Eilat, just to name a few. Because of Sabbath, the day of rest, we would have Friday afternoons and Saturdays on our own to tour with our host families.
My favourite day was our visit to Mount Massada and the Dead Sea. We woke up at 3am to climb the mountain and watch the sun rise on the top. We then had a tour of the ancient village on top of the mountain and got the cable car down and went to the spa at the dead sea where we all went for a swim and in the mud baths! Also the flight Eilat in a Hercules and our 2 days spent there were brilliant. We spent one of the days on the beach and aquarium and then a visit to the dolphin reef where we spent the afternoon with the dolphins.
When the trip came to an end we had our farewell ceremony at the Israeli Air Force Centre. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I am grateful that I was chosen to have been given the opportunity”.