Much more to cadet training than drills and exercise

  • Jul. 30, 2014 4:39 p.m.

Throughout the summer, more than 1,000 cadets from across Canada converge in Springbrook to build skills in either army, navy or air cadet training.

The Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre (PACSTC) is located in Springbrook and has been transformed from a Canadian Forces Base to the largest cadet training facility in the northwest region.

There are three divisions of the centre – basic and advanced training, general training and music training. Within each of those programs, there are a variety of activities offered that include general training, basic drill and ceremonial, ceremonial instructor, air rifle marksmanship instructor and basic, intermediate and advanced level military bands.

“The benefits of participating in a cadet program are mostly leadership and citizenship skills. They learn to appreciate a cadet’s country, and cadets learn people skills and physical training,” said Sara Wasiuta, unit public affairs representative for PACSTC.

She adds, “Sometimes they have organized free time, so they watch movies in the theatre or play games. They’re always kept busy. We have staff cadets who work for us, and they always have games and things to keep the cadets busy, keep them happy.”

The training centre is open to youth ages 12 to 18. Although the centre is called an air cadet training centre, it encompasses training for navy and army cadets.

Each cadet is registered to a program, similar to how a child would register for summer camp. There are limited spaces at the centre, so those who come enjoy their experience.

The air rifle marksmanship instructor course (ARMIC) is one of courses available, but not to every cadet.

Cadets must take part in marksmanship courses in their home squadron, apply, and be selected from a national pool of cadets eager to take part in the program.

“Of the hundreds of cadets that apply, what’s getting looked at is attendance; do they actually do marksmanship in home squadron or core – it’s a big process. To get on a course like this, a six-week course is actually quite a privilege for them. They’re competing against everybody across Canada,” said Cpt. Angela Blakely, the ARMIC squad commander for this summer.

In the ARMIC course, cadets learn how to coach marksmanship, what proper shooting positions are and how to adopt them, how to score targets and maintain rifles. They also train for a biathlon and for officiating future biathlons.

“After the summer, they pretty much become the expert. When the cadets return to their squadrons, and they have a biathlon day or marksmanship day, we use those kids back home to help teach all the classes.

“This course is kind of interesting too because it’s a tri-element course. Not only do we have air cadets, we have army cadets and sea cadets all coming together for one summer and learning how to be a marksmanship instructor,” said Lieut. Stephanie Maldonado, an ARMIC training officer.

For cadets to officiate biathlons is a huge honour.

Not many cadets receive the opportunity to do so, and Cpt. Blakeley said that officiating a biathlon is a huge accomplishment for those in the ARMIC program.

The music portion of cadet training is lesser known but still important.

Mostly, the musicians get to shine during parades and celebrations. They spend time in one-on-one lessons, full band practices and smaller group practices with similar instruments.

In the general training wing, there is a program called adventure training, which builds a cadet’s outdoor skills. They are outdoors for a day and night, and in that time will learn skills such as building fires, making shelters, knot tying, basic survival skills regarding animals and bugs and what is safe for consumption. They will also learn how to find water.

Cadets go through much intense training but also learn important life skills such as respect, camaraderie, discipline and understanding how governments work. Many of the children are seen smiling between drills, laughing with their friends or helping someone else with a task.

“You watch some of these kids – some of them have never slept outside overnight or anything before, and they’re out there by themselves, with a friend inside a tent that they construct,” said Cpt. Philip McKerry, officer in charge (OIC) of adventure training. “It’s pushing some of their comfort levels a little bit, and it’s a good way for them to learn this stuff. It’s in a controlled environment and they don’t have to worry about anything,”