SPRINGBROOK — There’s summer camp and there’s cadet camp. Those who have attended both say cadet camp is wayyyy more fun.
By summer’s end, facilities once occupied by Canadian Forces Base Penhold will have been the training ground for more than 1,200 12-year-olds and teens attracted to training and bonding experiences offered by joining the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.
They learn to be good leaders and good followers and a large number of them will get first-class training as musicians in marching bands.
Wind instrument musicians Brianna Bolt, Olivia Menard and Chan Hee Park, all 15, were among the cadets whose program included courses in advanced band.
Park said one of his goals as a musician is to smooth off some of the rough edges he experiences as he makes the transition back and forth between trumpet and flute.
“I’ve got a bad habit, when I play flute, I did a kind of like, trumpet mouth,” said Park. He also spits into his trumpet, a carryover from the mouthing methods used for enunciating notes on the flute.
A first-timer with air cadets, Park said he had attended Catholic church camp in the past and found the experience entirely different.
“It’s better. I love the schedule, the sessions and the private lessons. Those are really good.”
Hoping to become a teacher some day, Park said he hopes to go home from camp with more skills, like sight-reading and theory, along with a new set of good friends.
Playing in a band rather than performing solo has the benefit that the people beside you can cover if you make a mistake, said Park.
The bonds formed between cadets are especially tight, because they all come to camp with common interests and goals, said Bolt, who was first attracted to the program when she saw a group of cadets marching in a parade.
Now in her fourth year, Bolt said she plays bass clarinet and is learning to play the flute.
“It’s (more) fun because we’re here with these people for a certain amount of time and we do everything together and we bond. With the other camps, it’s like you don’t get as close to them.”
Bolt said her future plans include applying for the glider program and then pursue a degree in dentistry after graduating from high school.
She hopes to complete her degree through the Canadian Officer Training Program and eventually enter private practice.
Like Park, Menard said she is aiming toward a career in education.
Now in her third year with the program, Menard said she learned about the program through a friend of her mom’s.
“I checked it out and stuff, and I really liked it. I went to cadets and I then decided that that was cool and I wanted more of it, and then I decided to go to summer camp.”
She had been learning piano and clarinet before joining cadets, and decided she would like to study trombone during camp.
Clarinet is a finicky instrument to learn, but not as hard to play as the trombone, said Menard.
“I’m really enjoying trombone,” she said.
“I really want to be a teacher, whether it be with math and science or music and French. I’d be happy doing both. I really love music and I really like math and I really like teaching people, so I’m really happy to be here.”
Menard said she is teaching and learning during camp this year.
She said her future choices will depend on how things have panned out once she has finished high school.
Air Cadets aged 12 and up come from through the Prairie Provinces for summer camp at Penhold. They learn a variety of skills, including survival, physical fitness, marksmanship, music and gliding.
Depending on which program they’ve entered, cadets will spend one, two or three weeks in the camp. A small number of senior cadets are separately enrolled in a power flight scholarship program, taken at Sky Wings Aviation.