SPRINGBROOK—Throngs of cadets lined up for a special ceremony as the evening sun shone brightly over the air strip on Thursday.
The 45-minute-long sunset ceremony showed spectators some of the skills being taught at Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre. Some cadets displayed their precision at raising their flags or rifles.
Others marched in procession while playing musical instruments as high-ranking military officers, political dignitaries and area residents looked on during the public open house.
About 800 cadets aged 12 to 19 come to the former Canadian Forces Base Penhold for up to six weeks of training. Staff cadets can be on hand for eight to 10 weeks.
Sgt. Jordan Stefaniuk of Vegreville joined six years ago and since then he’s developed strong friendships with other youth from across Canada.
“I stuck with it because of the leadership and discipline, the sports — and the opportunities that are presented,” said the 17-year-old.
“I’m an athletics instructor and spent time at CFB Borden, so you get to travel quite a bit.”
He now has his pilot’s licence, which he achieved for free under the cadet program. He aspires to be a pilot for the Canadian Forces.
Winnipeg area resident Sgt. Evan Truss, 18, joined when he was 12. At Penhold, he helps provide glider familiarization flights.
The flights are designed to expose the cadets to the aviation side of the air cadet program and hopefully spark some interest about maybe becoming a pilot, said Truss.
He wants to become an airline pilot, preferably in Canada.
“Getting the opportunity to learn how to fly really kept me excited and motivated through the whole thing (of the program),” said Truss. Master Cpl. Anna Weingartl, public affairs representative, said the open house invited people to find out more about the cadet program.
Visitors checked out everything from the aeronautics display to the air rifle demonstration.
Cadets can take a range of training: general training, music, basic drill and ceremonial, drill and ceremonial instructor, air rifle marksmanship/instructor course.
The Department of National Defence will close Springbrook’s air cadet camp at the end of the 2014 season. The cadet camp was launched in 1966.
Weingartl said news of the closure has resulted in more community interest.
“We’re getting a lot more questions and interest about the camp and whole program,” said Weingartl, a reservist with the Canadian Forces. “Once the cadets reach 19, the limit, they can join the cadet instructor cadre, the reserves or regular forces.”
Lt.-Col. Allan Dengis, commanding officer of the Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre for the second year in a row, has mixed emotions about the closure.
“It’s a fantastic training facility, but the cadets aren’t going to be losing any opportunities because they will have advantages at other training centres around the country,” said Dengis.
The intent of the program isn’t to have young people transferring over to the Canadian Forces. “It’s to develop good citizens and leaders, develop physical fitness and stimulate an interest in the Canadian Forces,” Dengis said.
A good number of high-profile dignitaries, whether they are in politics, business or the military, probably had a background in cadets because it gave them a solid foundation in which to launch themselves forward, he added.
For more information, go online at www.cadets.ca