Membership in the Canadian Cadet Program in Manitoba has increased, boosted by youth who are eager to get out and do something since pandemic restrictions have been lifted.
“There’s been all-around a general increase in cadets enrolling again,” said Capt. Richard Novak, public affairs officer for the Regional Cadet Support Unit (Northwest).
“We had to do some virtual with COVID, and now we’re coming out of that so cadets or people want to do things in person, they want to be active.”
Novak was an army cadet in Calgary as a youth and so were his brothers and nephews. A person who enjoys the outdoors, he fondly remembers a canoe trip on the Yukon River, hikes and an alpine ski tour. He said he also made friends he remains in contact more than 30 years later.
“It’s just unique experiences,” Novak said. “And it really is just about the friends.”
The Canadian Cadet Program is open to youth aged 12 to 18 and aims to develop confident, self-sufficient leaders, friendships, and citizens who are engaged in their communities.
There are currently 2,081 army, air and sea cadets in Manitoba. Six Westman communities have cadets corps and squadrons. Brandon has army and sea corps, and an air cadet squadron. Neepawa, Russell and Strathclair each have an air cadet squadron, and there are army cadet corps in both Shilo and Virden.
Novak said the core of the cadet program is the same for army, sea and air cadets with a focus on developing leadership, citizenship and self-confidence. There are uniforms to maintain and boots to shine and drill, but Novak said those activities build teamwork.
Then, there are activities unique to each branch of cadets. Air cadets, for example, can train to earn their glider or power pilot licences, or sea cadets can go sailing. There are summer training sessions, locally and at training centres across the country with sessions lasting three to eight weeks, Novak said, and it’s all free.
Starting in their third year, cadets can also attend camps; Brandon is a site for one such camp, which provides glider pilot training.
Cadets like Master Warrant Officer Madison Weatherald, of 2502 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Army Cadet Corps., based at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, take advantage of multiple learning opportunities.
Weatherald recently attended a cadet music clinic in Winnipeg that provided specialist instruction in drill, music theory and practice in a larger group setting. There are cadet music programs at local cadet corps. And squadrons. It’s a chance for cadets without prior music experience to
A saxophone player, she has also travelled to British Columbia.
“I’d been to the Maritimes with my family before but going to HMCS Quadra Cadet Training Centre … was my first time to the West Coast,” Weatherald said. “It was so beautiful and I got to perform alongside a military band, and with four members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.”
Weatherald had joined cadets to learn marksmanship, and has attended summer training near Gimli to learn about aviation.
Adults are needed to help train and supervise local cadets and no previous military or cadet experience is necessary.