After spending several years as an offshoot of a Cranbrook corps, Invermere’s Royal Canadian Army Cadets are hoping to boost membership and form their own, autonomous group.
“In the past we dropped a lot of numbers and we didn’t have the right facility,” says 2lt. Megan Mcconnel. “Now we’ve got the Legion, which is a great space, so we’re trying to gain cadets and let people know that we’re here and the program is running in this area.”
Currently the program, which is open to youth aged 12 to 19, has nine Invermere members. Cadets meet at the Legion Monday nights, and those who take part in the group’s pipe and drum band also attend music practice on Tuesdays.
Cadets learn a variety of skills, from drilling and marching to marksmanship,outdoor survival techniques and how to navigate by map and compass. There’s also a focus on the workings of all three branches of the Canadian government.
“They’re also involved with public speaking, to get them ready to get out there and talk in front of people in the real world,” adds Jim Ingram, training officer for the 1813 corps.
“We also do a lot of leadership training with them. The biggest focus that we have now is a lot of the citizenship work. That’s getting out in the community — going to seniors’ homes, shovelling walks, picking up garbage in the local area.”
To put their skills to use, cadets attend summer camps and weekend training exercises. There are also annual field trips which have seen the corps head to Victoria and Edmonton.
The program is funded by the Canadian government, and is completely free. Activities not covered by the government are paid for by fundraising at a local level.
While there are some military aspects to the program — drilling, the cadets uniform, a rank structure and chain of command that mirror the military’s — Mcconnell and Ingram both stress the focus is on working with youth now, not pushing them towards a career in the military later.
“It’s an organization that tries to make them young, responsible adults at an earlier age,” says Ingram.
Mcconnell says the change she’s seen in cadets as they go through the program is dramatic.
“The kids come in and they’re shy,” she says. “But as soon as they go up in the ranks they’re given more responsibility and they gain leadership and they carry that on into their schools or careers.”
Throughout the program, older cadets are encouraged to train their younger counterparts, and can eventually work as paid instructors at cadet camps.
Friendships also play an important role in the cadet program.
“My boys, they’re 39 and 40 years of age right now, and they went to camp when they were young. They still have friends they met at camp all those many years ago. The social portion of it is amazing,” says Ingram.
While the Invermere cadets would still connect with the Cranbrook corps for some activities, such as winter survival training and the camps, Mcconnell says becoming an independent unit with its own number has its own benefits for the cadets.
“Most of their actual training would be developed here,” she says.
“The more cadets there are in the program, the better it is for the cadets who are here, because there’s more camaraderie, there’s more communication, they learn to work better with each other. A bigger group, they learn more off of each other.”
To get involved with cadets, contact Amber Coggins at 250-342-1094.