A teenager who arrived in Yorkshire from the Philippines speaking scarcely a word of English six years ago has been appointed to the highest rank it is possible for an Army cadet to achieve – Regimental Sergeant Major of her county.
The role means 18-year-old Staff Cadet Ashanti Mai Holden is now responsible for leading all the cadets within Yorkshire (North and West) Army Cadet Force, commanding as many as 400 cadets at any one time during county parades.
Pinnacle of cadet career
The rank of County Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major is the pinnacle of any cadet career, very few cadets show the leadership skills and attain the qualifications they need to take up the position, including the prestigious Master Cadet Award.
The fact that Ashanti Mai has achieved the role is all the more remarkable because she has only been in the UK since 2016 when her British stepfather took up a position in the country. Before that she had been brought up in the Philippines speaking the native Tagalog language.
‘Cadets gave me a community’
“My older brother was in the cadets and loved it so I thought I’d join too,” said Ashanti Mai, who is in the Northallerton detachment of Yorkshire (North and West) Army Cadet Force.
“Back then there were so many new things to get used to – a new home, a new school, new friends. But the cadets gave me a community and helped me find my place in my new country.
“I’ve absolutely loved all the opportunities the cadets has given to me and I’ve made the most of every single one. I’ve loved all the challenges from raising money for charity to climbing mountains and even playing rugby which is quite something for a four foot nine girl.”
A fine example
Commandant Fred Owen said: “Ashanti Mai is a fine example of what young people can achieve when they put their mind to it and she has truly risen to the very highest pinnacle for a cadet.
“Since joining the cadets she has embraced every opportunity given to her. As well as mastering the English language, she has become a fantastic ambassador for mental health by supporting her fellow cadets throughout the pandemic. She is an amazing role model to all those who meet her and I’m delighted that she has succeeded in achieving the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic which has limited her access to some of the courses she’s needed.”
County Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor, Warrant Officer Class 1 Austin Butler, said: “Ashanti commands the respect of all the cadets and shows all the qualities needed to be a remarkable Regimental Cadet Sergeant Major. She has a positive outlook in everything she takes on and inspires all her fellow cadets to be the very best they can be.”
Ashanti’s Detachment Instructor Lewis Wilde of Northallerton Detachment, said: “It’s been amazing watching Ashanti transform from a shy newcomer with very little English to the outstanding cadet she’s now become. She is respected by all who meet her and I’m immensely proud of all of her achievements. She brings sunshine and positivity to the detachment as well as huge amounts of self-discipline and commitment to any task.”
Ashanti Mai is in Year 13 at Northallerton School and hopes eventually to join the Royal Corps of Signals.