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By Marc Chayer
In past issues of this paper we have seen brief news reports about the Royal Canadian Air Cadets here in Whitecourt.
In reading these, I am sure people have often looked at the article as a “human interest” story which, in itself, is not a bad thing. However, what is missed is the fact that the “cadets” and the program associated with them is highly underrated.
Our exposure to them is usually on Remembrance Day where we will see the young cadets marching along with current serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces as well as our veterans.
But, if you were to attend an evening with the cadets, one of the first things that will strike you is when they raise our flag.
There is a degree of respect given as the attending cadets come to attention and salute as it is raised or lowered. This is often done in the dark and without “adult” supervision. It is refreshing to see young people, some as young as 12, giving the flag and, by default, the country they respect that we see eroded in other areas of our society.
Cadets are required to donate time to local community events. The Boob Tour that raised funds for our local Cancer Support Society was a beneficiary of the cadets’ hard work as they helped in the set up and take down at the hall.
Secondly, the program removes the “class” system we see in our day-to-day lives. The cadets wear the uniform and, as such, no-one there is rich or poor. They are spoken to as a group with the objective being the wellness of each other in the “unit.” Suddenly everyone is equal and without limits.
The overall program is focused on giving young people to ability to look toward goals and working to achieve them. Flight training, as an example, is an option open to all cadets from day one. They are instructed in ground school and are given multiple opportunities to actually fly in a wide range of aircraft to see their knowledge come to life.
A cadet can train and become a fully-certified glider pilot and, if desired, can achieve a full private pilot rating.
In a world where the “drone” aircraft has become commonplace, our squadron has become the first to have a flying drone coupled with the training on how to use it. Drones have become an industry in Canada and are used in everything from rescue to real estate.
The cadets in Whitecourt are taught intangibles such as confidence, ability, pride, and comradeship. They are a close-knit group that works for each other. In short, they are a success story we don’t often here about.
Of course, the cadets are not without support. Parents, board members, and officers all work to ensure that the experiences are challenging, safe, and, most importantly, fun. They work tirelessly to give the cadets the tools they need in exercises designed to make them self-reliant and mentally stronger.
With the end of the school year, the cadets don’t disappear. The summer is when they take it up a notch. Cadets are given the opportunity to attend summer camp (minimum two weeks) to train in a variety of disciplines. If one wants to learn music, there is a band camp on the shores of BC where the cadet can go.
What’s the catch, nothing! Cadets are paid at camp and learn basic life skills such as looking after your own needs. Laundry, making your bed, and being accountable are all present each and every day.
The cadet program is funded partly through the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Legion. Parents are not required to pay for anything. It is a program of international recognition and is accessible to anyone with a desire for a challenge.
You may think that cadets do a lot of marching and taking orders. If so, you would be wrong. But, what is certainly a fact is that 721 Hawk Squadron – Royal Canadian Air Cadets is a group this community should take pride in, at least as much pride as the cadets have in being from Whitecourt.
It is what it is…