Anyone who has ever attended a final parade for participants at the Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre can’t help but be impressed.
Watching the teenagers demonstrate their well-practised drill (marching) and obvious respect for the adults involved makes one think that the next generation really is going places.
So it’s entirely appropriate that Canada’s top soldier is expected to stop in at the camp on Friday.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk’s visit, no doubt, has something to do with the success of the revamped summer air cadet program at Penhold.
The very existence of the summer camp is a welcome reminder of the legacy of the air force training base once located there.
It’s also a good reminder of the Canadian cadet movement, in general.
Across this nation, thousands of people, from ages 12 to 18, participate in sea, army and air cadets.
Many of these youths get an opportunity to visit other parts of Canada by attending a summer cadet camp.
Doing so is affordable for parents because the cost is covered by the federal government.
So, while other summer activities can prove costly, cadets is a bargain that helps young people become contributing members of society.
The cadet program is designed to:
• Promote teamwork, leadership and citizenship;
• Develop decision-making skills;
• Increase self-confidence and physical fitness.
Furthermore, the cadet movement does not tolerate harassment of any form.
Although involvement in cadets does not require participants to join the Canadian Force when they become adults, it does give them a glimpse of military life and allow them to decide if such a career would suit them.
Some people might view cadets as an old-fashioned sort of activity, but the movement continues to evolve and the summer camp at Penhold is certainly indicative of that.
A new interactive general training program was introduced at the camp this summer that allows cadets to spend less time in the classroom while getting a taste of a variety of cadet training.
“As youth change, the cadet program needs to change with them,” explains Capt. Amber Wenzel-Novakowski. “Over the next few years, there’s going to be five new courses developed so the entire summer program is changing. It’s going to be much more interactive and dynamic.”
Here in Central Alberta, the potential of the cadet movement has been especially evident at Hobbema.
There, the Hobbema Community Cadet Corps have attracted hundreds of members since forming four years ago.
The members include representation from the four Cree Nations at Hobbema: Samson, Ermineskin, Louis Bull and Montana.
Participation in cadets is expected to bring all the benefits the movement produces elsewhere, in addition to giving teenagers an alternative to joining the criminal gangs that are prevalent at Hobbema.
“What we offer is a place to build relationships with others,” says Hobbema RCMP Const. Richard Huculiak. “A group of friends you can rally around to stay out of trouble together.”
The Hobbema cadet group has partnered with local businesses to help members with scholarships and jobs when they grow up.
By the end of this summer, hundreds of cadets will have experienced the camp experience at Penhold.
Many of the youths will likely look back on those experiences fondly as they embrace leadership positions as adults.
Some of them may even eventually serve this country proudly as members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
At camp, the teenagers may learn how to make a bed and shine a pair of boots, but they’re learning so much more than that.
They learning to be responsible, caring citizens, and that certainly deserves a salute!
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor. His daughter recently attended a two-week cadet camp at Penhold.