By Sitraka Raoelimanohisoa, Air Cadet League of Canada
The aim of the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) program and its association is to foster international understanding, goodwill and friendship among young people who have an interest in aviation. When the program began, the expected long-range benefits were primarily educational ones. Sponsors of the program also believed that giving young people a chance to meet on common ground, for a casual interchange of ideas and opinions, would promote a degree of understanding and appreciation of the other’s point of view. They expected that cadets taking part in the trips would return better citizens of their home and better citizens of the world.
It all started on April 11, 1946. A meeting in Montreal presided over by Air Cadet League member C. Douglas Taylor, with Air Commodore Sydney Smith (representing the Air Training Corps of Great Britain) in attendance, marked the beginning of the negotiations and plans to establish the IACE program.
Original plans were made to exchange the first 23 cadets between Canada and Britain that same year, but short timing and a serious outbreak of polio in Canada made it impossible to implement the program immediately. The next phase in the development began when C. Douglas Taylor, as President of the League, and George M. Ross, General Manager, travelled to London to take part in a series of meetings with the Air Training Corps, the Royal Air Force and the Air Ministry. Taylor presented the idea for the program, and an agreement was made to introduce the program the following year.
As a result of the London conference, the first successful exchange of 46 cadets and two officers was carried out in the summer of 1947 between Canada and the United Kingdom.
That first exchange was the forerunner of all later developments and the IACE program was officially launched in 1948. That year also marked the first exchange between the U.S. and Canada.
In 1950, the first Swedish exchange cadets were invited to visit Canada, the result of fruitful contacts made by Mr. Taylor. Then in 1951 Norwegian, Dutch and Danish cadets were all invited to visit the country. Around the same time, the US made plans to expand their exchange program to involve 19 countries. The need to establish an international organization to coordinate and administer the overall exchange program was becoming apparent. As a result, the International Air Cadet Exchange Association (IACEA) was established; it would host a fall conference each year.
There was a mutual desire among the members of the association to expand the Air Cadet Exchange program and invitations were often sent to additional countries. As a result, the number of participating countries increased year on year.
Today the IACEA is composed of organizations from 20 countries. A few examples include: the Ghana National Cadet Corps, the Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps, the Turkish Aeronautical Association, and the UK Air Cadet Organization. This year, as part of the exchange program, Air Cadets from around the world toured the Maritimes for 15 days in July.
Also this summer, Royal Canadian Air Cadets travelled to the four corners of the world, in two separate groups. Cadets leaving from Vancouver travelled to Australia, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, or South Korea, while cadets departing from Ottawa left for Belgium, France, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, or U.S. In total, more than 75 air cadets and escorts visited Canada and more than 75 air cadets left the country to expand their horizons, experience different cultures, and make life-long friendships.
When asked before embarking on his journey to the U.S. what he was expecting to get out of the exchange program, Royal Canadian Air Cadet Calvin Yu Huynh answered that he wished to, “make friendships that cross time zones, share cultures, and stand the test of time.”
In 1947 C. Douglas Taylor wrote that, “These young Air Cadets were, in a sense, ambassadors. They were ambassadors of good will for the people of two distant but friendly lands. For the young men who participated, the Air Cadet Exchange visits were an adventure in friendship.”
It is clear that his sentiments are as true today as they were then. The IACE remains an adventure in friendship.