Castlegar’s squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets is celebrating 65 years of supporting local youth this month.
Castlegar 581 was chartered on Oct. 29, 1952, and has been an active part of the community ever since with thousands of local youth participating in the program over the years.
There isn’t a big celebration planned for this month, but plans are being made to celebrate at the squadron’s annual review which will be held in May. Organizers are encouraging all former cadets and leaders to attend the review.
Castlegar’s former fire chief Gerry Rempel has been involved with Air Cadets for 25 years. He is currently the commanding officer for Castlegar and thinks the program is an excellent way for young people to learn life skills.
“The core program of the cadets is to build good citizenship, leadership qualities and physical fitness,” said Rempel.
“We have a zero tolerance for bullying and discrimination,” he added.
The program has many aspects outside of the weekly meeting and training time including survival weekends, sports weekends, public speaking training, aviation training, summer camps, safe firearms handling and range training.
Many of these events take place in conjunction with other cadet squadrons from across the region. The squadron participates in competitions including first aid, marksmanship and effective speaking.
Many people are familiar with the role the cadets play every year during Remembrance Day activities. The cadets parade to the annual ceremony at Kinsmen Park and provide a Cenotaph guard.
“We emphasize that to remember those that gave their lives for us and our freedoms,” said Rempel.
The cadets support the local Royal Canadian Legion and in turn, are supported by the legion. Cadets also help with the annual poppy sales.
They also volunteer at Castlegar’s Sunfest and Winterfest. “We try to get out to all the community activities,” said Rempel.
Among the life skills that are taught are public speaking and interviewing for jobs. “It prepares them for life after they leave,” Rempel said.
There are currently 31 cadets enrolled in the program this year and new recruits are welcomed at any time. The program is open to youth ages 12 to 18.
The cost of the program is relatively low at $135 a year. There are no additional charges for things like uniforms, competitions and camps.
“Every youth has the same opportunity regardless of life factors,” added Rempel.
The cadets meet on Tuesdays from 6:15 to 9 p.m. at the Cadet Hall at 216 8th Ave. Anyone who is interested in joining is encouraged to stop by the hall or give Rempel a call at 250-365-6389.