Signs cautioning drivers to slow down for marching cadets have been put up throughout Springbrook for the last time.
Over 500 cadets from across the country, ages 12 to 18, arrived on Sunday via bus to kick off the final year of the Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre.
“It makes me really sad actually,” said Kyra Robinson, 16, of Mundare.
“I’ve been coming to this camp for the past three summers and it’s been nice because it’s so close to home so family can come visit.”
The centre, located at the former Canadian Forces Base Penhold, has been training cadets since 1966.
After the base closed in 1994, the Harvard Park Business Centre purchased the facilities and leased them to the Department of National Defence.
Citing infrastructure costs, the department is pulling the plug on the centre after this summer and the cadets will be spread among the Cold Lake, Dundurn, Sask., and Vernon, B.C. centres in 2015.
Second-Lt. Jamie Callaghan of Prince George and Officer Cadet/Flight Cmdr. Evangeline Aiello of Thunder Bay say the closure is emotional for many of the staff.
“There are so many memories here,” said Aiello, who attended the camp herself as a cadet, then as a staff cadet and now as adult staff.
“It’s where we’ve met friends we end up staying in touch with for years,” added Callaghan, who met Aiello four years ago at the summer camp.
First-Sgt. Konica Noeumen of Winnipeg, a staff cadet with the music programs, has been coming to Springbrook for the past six years.
“This is where I have my summers so yes it’s emotional. I just want it to be a fantastic summer and make sure the kids I’m in charge of have a good time . . . It’s my second year staffing and when they leave, a part of you almost leaves with them,” Noeumen said.
Despite it being the final year, it’s business as usual at the centre.
Air, sea and army cadets can receive training in one of three areas: basic and advanced training, general training and music training.
Specific courses in these categories include basic drill and ceremonial, air rifle marksmanship and basic, intermediate and advanced military band.
Some cadets stay for up to six weeks while others comes for two.
The Penhold camp also offers a glider familiarization program at the Netook Gliding Centre in Olds and a flying scholarship program operated by Skywings Aviation where cadets can obtain their private pilot’s licenses.
Twenty scholarship winners take to the skies starting Monday for their first solo flights as part of that program.
Air cadet Amy Stefaniuk, 14, said she’s mostly looking forward to leaning new range skills and making more friends.
“It’s a legacy for me,” said Stefaniuk, noting all three of her older siblings went through cadets as well.
She plans to head to the Cold Lake Cadet Summer Training Centre in 2015 to train to become a survival instructor.
Meanwhile Robinson said she’ll be aiming for a glider scholarship for the Air Cadet Gliding Program in Gimli, Man.
Summer training wraps up on Aug. 15 with a final graduation parade and all cadet equipment will be moved to the remaining centres in the region soon after.