By Captain Karina Smith, National Cadets & Junior Canadian Rangers Support Group
The Cadet Program has a long and proud history of contributing to the positive development of young Canadians. Tracing its roots all the way back to the early days of Confederation, the program boasts an impressive alumni, including successful business leaders and entrepreneurs, parliamentarians, and even astronauts. At this point, you might be wondering, what is this program all about?
There have been many changes throughout the Cadet Program’s vibrant history; however, what has not changed are the program’s fundamental principles and positive impact on participants long after their experience in Cadets. Today’s program remains open and welcoming to all Canadian youth, instils military values, develops leadership, citizenship and promotes a healthy lifestyle in its participants, all in an environment that balances safety with challenging training and strives to leave a positive lifelong impact.
The program provides a well-structured positive learning environment for teenagers age 12 to 18 years old, allowing them to try, learn and develop a wide variety of skills ranging from hands-on to intellectual and life skills. Through a multitude of fun and challenging opportunities, cadets are able to try, experiment, and learn from their experiences, while enjoying support from their peers and their adult leaders as they grow into successful and contributing members of their communities.
Notwithstanding the leadership, citizenship, physical fitness and ethical decision-making skills the program strives to instil in cadets, it also offers tangible skills that they can use and apply in their everyday lives. “Cadets gain confidence and self-esteem while developing leadership, communication, team-building and problem-solving skills through challenging, fun, peer-led experiences that they can’t get anywhere else,” says Lieutenant-Commander Peter Kay, Training Program Development Officer at the National Cadet and Junior Canadian Rangers Support Group Headquarters in Ottawa. “These practical and transferable skills are of great benefit to the youth, now and into the future.”
The Sea Cadet Program is about much more than sailing; a sea cadet participates in many on-the-water activities that can include canoeing, scuba diving or operating a whaler, and can also pursue competitive sailing. Sea cadets can also obtain a Transport Canada Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), demonstrating their boating safety knowledge and proof of competency, which they can use in or out of the Cadet Program. Following their acquisition of the PCOC card, cadets go through the Small Craft Operator Program where they obtain the marine radio Restricted Operator’s Certificate (Maritime), more experience on the powerboat and complete a practical evaluation to operate powerboats with the Cadet Program.
One of the most popular aspects of the Air Cadet Program is the opportunity to experience flying in an aircraft, and selected cadets take it a step further by earning a Transport Canada Glider or Private Pilot licence through the program. Air cadets also develop other aviation technical skills and they have access to two summer training opportunities in this area: Advanced Aviation Technology Airport Operations and Aircraft Maintenance courses, both offered each summer in North Bay, Ont. Through these tailored programs, 120 cadets are selected from across the country to learn airport operations, ground services, aircraft structures, avionics and instrument systems, aircraft inspection and servicing processes.
Flight Sergeant Travis White from Stewiacke, N.S. graduated from the Aircraft Maintenance course in 2016 and was a staff cadet in the maintenance department at the Debert Cadet Flying Training Centre this summer. “I’m a hands-on kind of guy and I enjoy finding solutions to problems. Working in maintenance is great and seeing cadets flying knowing I worked on the aircraft brings an amazing feeling of accomplishment,” says White, who is considering a career as a mechanic.
The great outdoors has always been part of army cadet training. Expedition-style activities were introduced to the program in the early 2000s allowing army cadets to transition from traditional “bushcraft” training to the many exciting opportunities to participate in expeditions. Starting at the community level of the program, army cadets take part in expedition activities with their Corps to develop their skills as outdoor leaders. Interested army cadets can choose to pursue expedition opportunities further through summer courses ranging from three to six weeks where they can prefect their canoeing, hiking, orienteering, mountain biking and rock climbing skills.
“Through my involvement at the expedition centres and with the different expedition courses at cadet training centres, I saw many cadets develop their self-confidence and discover their level of tolerance when faced with challenges. It is amazing to see a shy and quiet cadet becoming a thoughtful expedition leader, using the skills learned at camp,” says Captain Chantal St-Jean, Commanding Officer of 2509 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and expedition instructor in Calgary, Alberta.
Indeed, a multitude of opportunities await cadets — sea, army or air — through their participation in the Cadet Program. Whether they’re in Cadets for a short or long time, the Cadet Program aims to develop positive young leaders, and prepares them to transition to adulthood with the right tools to face the challenges of modern society.
Were you a cadet in your youth? We invite you to share your thoughts on how the program made an impact in your life and career by participating in the Former Cadet Survey, which is underway until December 31, 2017. Visit www.cadets.ca for more information.