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Winging it: Photo series captures Air Cadets in fine form

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Troy Shantz

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.

From left: Flight Corporal Jason McDowell and Leading Air Cadet Joshua Gibson mingle with the other cadets during a break between classes. Troy Shantz
From left: Flight Corporal Jason McDowell and Leading Air Cadet Joshua Gibson mingle with the other cadets during a break between classes. Troy Shantz
Flight Corporal Jason McDowell stands at attention during an exercise. Troy Shantz
Flight Corporal Jason McDowell stands at attention during an exercise. Troy Shantz
Cadets march in formation during an exercise. Troy Shantz
Cadets march in formation during an exercise. Troy Shantz
Flight Corporal Jonathan Hemstreet-Straiko waits for class to begin. Troy Shantz
Flight Corporal Jonathan Hemstreet-Straiko waits for class to begin. Troy Shantz
From left: Leading Air Cadet Oscar Malik, Cadet Layla Hamelin, Leading Air Cadet Madhumitha Parthiban and Leading Air Cadet Ameena Nazeer listen to a presentation during a class session.
From left: Leading Air Cadet Oscar Malik, Cadet Layla Hamelin, Leading Air Cadet Madhumitha Parthiban and Leading Air Cadet Ameena Nazeer listen to a presentation during a class session.
Clockwise: Warrant Officer 2nd Class Sean Stevens and Sgt. Kyle Wygergangs speak privately with Flight Corporal Jason McDowell, immediately after McDowell was involved in a disagreement with another cadet. Most minor conflicts are mediated by the higher-ranking cadets. Troy Shantz
Clockwise: Warrant Officer 2nd Class Sean Stevens and Sgt. Kyle Wygergangs speak privately with Flight Corporal Jason McDowell, immediately after McDowell was involved in a disagreement with another cadet. Most minor conflicts are mediated by the higher-ranking cadets. Troy Shantz
Corporal Ethan Harris stands at attention during a drill. Troy Shantz
Corporal Ethan Harris stands at attention during a drill. Troy Shantz

 

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