The 37 Bradford Orville Hand Air Cadet Squadron held an information and recruitment night at Fieldcrest Elementary School on Thursday.
While second-year cadets in uniform practiced their drill in the gym or took classes upstairs, a whole new group of parents and kids were learning more about Air Cadets from Commanding Officer Major Stephen Case, in the library.
There was a good turnout for the session. Major Case was bombarded with questions on every aspect of a program that provides equal opportunities for boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18.
The Air Cadet program can provide a pathway to a career in the Canadian Forces or aviation, noted the commanding officer. It is also a great social program that teaches life skills, leadership and creates life-long friendships – and can provide kids with a boost to self-esteem, said the CO.
As a cadet, Case signed up to take glider courses at CFB Borden, at the age of 16. “I didn’t have my driver’s licence, but I was flying an aircraft,” he said. “16, 17 years old, that’s something that changes your life.”
He added, “It’s a real boost to self esteem. It’s an inspiration to your friends. You’re a young person that’s accomplished something that’s a dream to most people.”
It’s also free. In fact, said the Major, kids who apply for and are accepted to summer camps, for training in everything from Ceremonial Drill to marksmanship, scuba diving, survival skills and band, are actually paid $60 a week by the military, simply because “this program provides such a depth of experience to the kids.”
37 Bradford Air Cadets meet every Thursday evening, from about 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., either at Fieldcrest E.S. or at the Bradford Legion, which is sponsoring the Bradford squadron. Additional training sessions and camps are held on weekends or during the summer.
Cadet uniforms, valued at $700 each, are also free. “We provide that free of charge. We show you how to take care of it,” said Major Case, adding a tip: “Don’t iron your pants while you’re wearing them.”
There are some costs associated with the program. It takes a while for uniforms to arrive; until then, new Cadets are asked to wear white shirts, black dress pants and black shoes. If that’s not something in the wardrobe, it may entail a purchase.
Each cadet is also asked to sell two $60 booklets of raffle tickets, for the Air Cadet League draw taking place next April – tickets that offer prizes of a 2020 Subaru WRX, cash, and a one-hour flight for four on a restored AVRO Lancaster bomber from World War II. Cadets get back their money as they sell the tickets.
In its first year as a flight of 94 Newmarket Air Cadets, the Bradford Squadron signed up 30 recruits. “Our goal this year is 30 more cadets,” said CO Case.
“We don’t want to turn anyone away,” but the program also does not want to grow beyond its capacity, he said. Depending on the number of new recruits who enrol, “We may have to put a cap on it,” Case said.
The Cadet program is all about experiential learning, he concluded, with the opportunity for each child to advance at his or her own speed – and opportunities for parents to get involved as volunteers.
Volunteers will need vulnerable sector screening. “We want this to be a community organization. We want the community involved,” Case said.
Legion Support Committee Chair, Mike Giovanetti noted that his son was in Air Cadets and worked his way “all the way up the ladder.” Now at Fanshawe College where he is studying business, his son still draws on the life skills and leadership training received in Cadets.
For more information on 37 Bradford Air Cadet Squadron, click here.
“The program is free. The military provides. It shows how much we value it,” said Major Case.