Lisburn lad in biggest military graduation

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Kennethdon Bird, a 17 year old from Lisburn, has graduated from the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Europe’s largest military graduation parade.

He was one of over 500 junior soldiers to pass out in Uniacke Barracks, Harrogate on Thursday 14 August, celebrating the culmination of a year of hard work and dedication by taking part in what is also the second largest British Army parade, beaten only by the Trooping of the Colour.

Ultimately, the Lisburn lad wants to join the Royal Irish Regiment but for now he will begin the next part of his specialist training, where he will learn how to do the job at home and on operations.

Private Bird’s passing out brought him great pride as well as some fond memories; “Getting to go on a week long ski trip in France was fantastic. It’s something I couldn’t have done otherwise and was a great experience.”

Each year, the prestigious AFC Harrogate takes in 1,350 school-leavers who are given the opportunity to learn military skills, gain essential qualifications and develop as a person, while at the same time getting paid throughout their training. The Army is always recruiting, and the junior entry programme provides an alternative option for young people who have chosen to take on the challenge of a career in the Army over a traditional further education path.

The soldiers have all completed training which combines military skills with education in key subjects such as numeracy and literacy, as well adventure training and sports, culminating in a 30-hour patrol across the Yorkshire Dales.

Brigadier Andrew Jackson, Director of Recruiting and Training for the Army said:

“These young soldiers can be very proud of their achievements. The training they go through is tough, but undeniably leads to excellent opportunities for personal and career development and allows people’s talents and skills to shine through.

“By the end of their time at AFC Harrogate, our junior soldiers are confident and proficient, and have gained crucial transferable skills.

“The Army is always recruiting, and we are always looking for talented young people to take up the challenge of a career in the Army. No matter what your background or skills, the Army has something to offer and bring out strengths you never knew you had.”

AFC Harrogate’s short 20 week course delivers basic training to the soldiers before they leave to start their longer and more specialist technical training. They also have the opportunity to gain NVQs in English, maths and Information and Communications Technology, as well as driver theory training.

The longer 40 week course consists of a combination of military skills and vocational qualifications before the soldiers move on to phase two training in their chosen trade or specialism. They have the opportunity to achieve a City and Guilds apprenticeships and many have also achieved a Duke of Edinburgh Award.

There are thousands of full-time and part-time jobs available in the Army, across hundreds of different roles. Some of the roles available now include: bricklayers, communications specialists, logistics specialists, air conditioning and refrigerator engineers, welders, veterinary technicians, musicians, technical storemen, environment health technicians, health care assistants and infantry soldiers.

For more information about the exciting job opportunities with the Army, visit