AN INSPIRATIONAL Gwent teenager has been named as one of the top 10 cadets in the United Kingdom, beating off competition from more than 100,000 others.

Cadet Sgt Alen Thomas, of the Nantyglo and Blaina squadron in No 1 Welsh wing of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, has earned a place in the 10 finalists for the prestigious CVQO Duke of Westminster Award.

The 17-year-old, from Brynmawr, beat off competition from more than 100,000 cadets from the navy, army, RAF, police, fire and St John Ambulance candidates to become the first cadet from South Wales to be named as a finalist in the annual award.

Sgt Thomas’ commanding officer nominated him for the award after impressing with his dedication and commitment.

He was selected as a finalist after completing physical and mental challenges, including outdoor activities, group tasks, problem solving, an interview and presentation.

Bob Timothy, officer commanding No1 Welsh wing, said: “Cadet Sgt Thomas is an inspirational young man who clearly has drive and enthusiasm in no short measure.

“The motto of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets is ‘Venture adventure.’ Cadet Sgt Thomas has demonstrated that with commitment and hard work it is possible for a young person, even in today’s difficult climate, to embark on their own personal adventure.

“He is an ambassador for his squadron and wing and a role model for those other cadets around him.”

An awards ceremony will be held at the House of Lords in June for the finalists, before they travel to South Africa for a two-week trip in July.

An overall winner will then be named shortly afterwards.

Sgt Thomas has been a cadet for four years, taking his CVQO with a BTEC level 1 whilst taking the RAF Air Cadets classification training syllabus.

He recently gained his gold Duke of Edinburgh award and took part in a paragliding course with the RAF.

Flight Lieutenant Paul Maitland, commanding officer, said: “An adventure-seeker, he successfully completed the four-day Nijmegen March in 2016 as well as taking part in several canoeing expeditions.

“Alen has worked hard to be amongst the ten cadets selected to travel to South Africa and we are so proud of him.”

A spokesman for the CVQO, an education-based charity which provides vocational qualifications to youth group members and adult volunteers, said the award recognises those who overcome personal challenges.