Tuesday, Oct. 20 marked the start of a unique Cadet season as Castlegar Air Cadets gathered not in person, but virtually in a Zoom meeting.
The Cadet program nationwide has been on hiatus since April 15 as a direct result of COVID-19, when Brig.-Gen. D.B Cochrane, the commander of the National Cadet and Junior Canadian Ranger Support Group issued direction that all in-person activities related to the Cadet programs throughout Canada be cancelled till at least Aug. 31 as a safety precaution to address the troubling concern of COVID-19. The Castlegar squadron has been on stand down since then and is now starting up in a virtual format.
“It’s great to see Cadets starting again,” said 2nd Lt. Barb Makortoff, the squadron’s administration officer. “Online is better than the alternative of not having cadets at all. COVID has greatly affected [us] considering it’s been over six months since we have functioned normally, it will take a little time to get everyone back in the swing of things.”
While the cadets will be getting back into the swing of things it will be far from a normal routine as the Department of National Defense (DND) who is responsible for running the program has put into place many protection measures to ensure the safety of the cadets and officers.
“[We have been] supplied with enough non-medical masks (NMM) to outfit all of [our] cadets and officers, and any time we meet in-person, we must wear them at all times when in-person.” said Lt. (N) Llora McTeer, acting commanding officer for the Squadron. “We have received heavy-duty wipes and spray bottles, as well as funding to purchase disinfectants and hand sanitizer.” The cadets will also be required to practice social distancing when they do return to in-person activities. In addition, all high-touch surfaces must be cleaned regularly, and hand sanitizer must be used upon entry into the cadet hall.
“Over the next several months, we will slowly begin to incorporate more and more in-person activities as our policies and staffing levels permit.” said McTeer. “For the short-term, we have approximately one in-person activity scheduled per month, and an hour per week of virtual training, so the cadets don’t fall too far behind in their programs.”
But while cadets return to action in a virtual format, the return to in-person activities is still a ways off, even with COVID-19 precautions being addressed, as the Kiwanis Community Hall that the cadets call home has developed a leak in the roof that has caused significant water damage to the interior.
“We are fortunate that our insurance will cover the extensive water damage that has occurred to the interior of the hall, with a deductible of $5,000, but it won’t cover the roof repair.” said Shelley Hastie, the squadron sponsoring committee’s treasurer.
The sponsoring committee for the 581 Squadron has started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the money necessary for the roof repairs, but the committee is looking at a nearly $30,000 repair bill. The Kiwanis Hall is also home of the community Sharing Pot, a soup kitchen that typically runs on Tuesdays at noon.
The cadet program is still open to accepting all youth between the ages of 12-18 years old with a focus on leadership, citizenship and healthy living during this time of COVID-19. For more information you can visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CastlegarCadets or website at 581castlegaraircadets.ca.