The Castor air cadet squadron plans to make a comeback after operations were suspended in November.
The fate of the squadron was discussed at a meeting last Wednesday in Coronation, the new base for the group. A full house asked questions of cadet officials, including Kevin Robinson, chair of the cadets’ provincial committee.
“I see people were skeptical,” said Bill Woollven, officer in charge of air cadet training for the Region Cadet Support Unit, Northwest. “I got the feeling that they felt that we were here to shut down the squadron. That’s never been our intention,”
The Golden Age Drop-In Centre in Coronation gathering wasn’t entirely the cadet squadron.
When the members of the audience without a child in cadets were asked why they were at the meeting, one man simply said “support,” followed by murmurs of agreement.
“We have the support from the community and different clubs, like the Elks, which see that we need to keep something like the air cadets in our area for our youth,” said Annette Allen, chair of the sponsoring committee.
The main problem the Castor squadron has had is a lack of staff. “That’s the key,” Woollven said. “That’s the lynchpin.”
He said the group had no choice but to suspend operations bacause of an officer shortage.
“The program was not being delivered the way it should be.”
The only staff member the squadron has is Capt. Phil Ricard, who made it clear that he wouldn’t run the squadron by himself.
“Our No. 1 priority is get staffing up and everything else will flow into place,” said Robinson.
To be an officer, interested parties have to have their Grade 12 or GED, be physically fit and a Canadian citizen, and be willing to undergo training.
Woollven said the air cadet officials have tried to bring in instructors from Red Deer and Olds, but they weren’t willing to travel that far.
“The issue here is geography,” he said.
Allen said that she has found several people who are interested in becoming air cadet officers.
However, they have to go through training before they can start leading the squadron. The members of the squadron were eager to find out if anything could be done to get the air cadet program running again and finish out the year.
“How do we make this happen? I want these kids back in training,” said Allen.
Eventually, a temporary solution was reached. Two people said at the meeting that they were interested in becoming civilian instructors. Civilian instructors can fill the role of a cadet instructor on a temporary basis. That way, Capt. Ricard has help running the squadron until the end of the training year, based out of Coronation.
“It (the decision) was gratifying yet upsetting all at the same time,” said cadet squadron member Mallory Schafer. “I thought it could have happened sooner. It should have happened sooner. We shouldn’t have waited this long for it to happen.”
“It’s really better than not having a squadron at all,” added fellow air cadet squadron member Jordan Stonehouse.
Stettler, Castor and Coronation-area cadets are in the group.