Flight Sgt. Anthony Wood

Flight Sgt. Anthony Wood

Young women learn to lead through Air Cadet experience

Langford-based squadron offers a team environment for all youth

Flight Sgt. Breanna Williams with 848 Royal Roads Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets knows what it’s like to be a newcomer.

Having spent a year in Navy League in Dartmouth, N.S., she found herself having to adjust to life on the West Coast and a new cadet group after her father was transferred to B.C. She recalls her initial feelings suiting up with her new squadron mates in Langford and how it was difficult at first to fit in.

“On my first night I looked a little different: I was wearing a different shirt under my tunic and my shoulder flashes said ’18 Dartmouth’ and everyone else’s said 848 Royal Roads,” she said.

“I felt so out of place. Thankfully, there was one person who welcomed me in and wanted to befriend me. I learned a great lesson from that person and now I make a point of welcoming all our new cadets from different squadrons and corps who feel out of place.”

Williams is one of a number of female youth in the squadron who have found it to be a place to learn discipline, responsibility and leadership. She is a good example of what can be achieved through hard work and focus, as she was recently presented with a Silver Duke of Edinburgh Youth Award by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon at Government House.

“Because of her perseverance and her heavy involvement with the cadet program and with the squadron, she was able to meet all the requirements to receive it,” said Capt. Mandart Chan, commanding officer of the 848.

Like Williams, Flight Sgt. Cailyn Wilcox joined the 848 from a squadron far across the country, but has thrived since transferring to the Langford branch after her family moved to this area.

Wilcox came to the 848 from L’escadron 643 St-Hubert in Longeuile, Que., where she learned her drills in French. She has attended summer camps across Canada, including on Vancouver Island, and has worked her way up the ranks as she’s learned a variety of skills, from aviation to personal health and squadron management.

“For the last five years, I have been proud to call myself a cadet,” she said. “I have learned how to be a proper cadet, how to polish my boots, iron my uniform, learn about aviation, learn about drill and all the different pathways you can take in your career as a cadet. I have made so many friends over these past years and still keep in touch with many of them today.”

Chan has an idea why the 848 and cadets in general appeals to girls.

“It appeals to young females because it’s not like a sport where it’s a girls team or a boys team, we’re all one team, regardless of gender,” he said. “Everything that you join, we’re all one team.”

That much was clear recently, when the squadron engaged in a two-day field exercise at Camp Barnard. Cadets teamed up on a number of activities and skill-building drills.

The squadron, which was formed 40 years ago as 848 Colwood but was renamed Royal Roads some years later, averages between 40 to 50 cadets on parade at its weekly Tuesday night meeting. New members between age 12 and 18 are accepted at any time, Chan said.

Asked what keeps cadets coming back and what attracts newcomers, he said, “I think it’s the fact that we keep them busy. If you look at our schedule, there are very few days where we don’t keep them busy.”

From music to air rifle target shooting to aviation and more, there is bound to be some activity that peaks a youth’s interests, he added.

Interested parties can stop by the 848 Royal Roads Royal Canadian Air Cadets Squadron meeting Tuesday nights at 6:30 p.m. at Lighthouse Christian Academy 1289 Parkdale Dr.

Or to find more information visit 848royalroadsaircadets.com or email 848air@cadets.gc.ca.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com