Special to The Journal
What do Fred Penner, former Prime Minister Joe Clark and Commander Chris Hadfield have in common?
Other than being icons of Canadian heritage and culture they were all Air Cadets.
Spend some time with Sarnia’s Squadron 44 Royal Canadian Air Cadets and you can’t help but wonder – which of the current students will join that list in the future.
Commanding Officer Captain Janet Erickson said the program helps nurture citizenship, physical fitness and leadership in youth ages 12 to 19, all the while stimulating an interest in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Erickson, a retired Canadian Forces member and former Air Cadet, said much more is going on with the students beneath the surface.
“The best part of my job is watching the cadets improve their self-confidence and sense of responsibility, watching them overcome shyness and become more outgoing and comfortable interacting in their peer settings,” she said.
The free program meets once a week and during the parades, as they’re termed, the students interact with each other. Other activities include flying, camping, sports, band and marching.
Cadets in fifth year lead the exercises and drill, and in some cases handle discipline within the squadron.
“The Cadet Program emphasizes key values such as loyalty, professionalism, mutual respect and integrity,” Ericson said.
At the end of the day, though, these are kids. Though they stand in formation with pressed uniform and glossy, polished shoes, there’s room for fun. Many friendships are evident and social bonds seem to be everywhere within the squadron.
Amid it all, the motto “To Learn, to Serve, to Advance” is on display as the students interact with their superiors, their peers and the community.