Leduc Air Cadets hopes to spread wings in community

Since its formation Sept. 1, 1974, this is the first year the Leduc 831 Black Knights Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron is...

The Leduc 831 Black Knights Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron parades on Tuesdays at St. Benedict School in Leduc. The Squadron is hoping to grow its numbers after seeing a dip from last year.

The Leduc 831 Black Knights Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron parades on Tuesdays at St. Benedict School in Leduc. The Squadron is hoping to grow its numbers after seeing a dip from last year.

Since its formation Sept. 1, 1974, this is the first year the Leduc 831 Black Knights Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron is not at the former Leduc Royal Canadian Legion location on 50th Avenue.

CO Cpt. Joe Martinez says because of the Legion’s relocation, rendering the squadron “homeless” for the time being, its numbers have dropped slightly.

Martinez has been associated with the squadron since the spring of 2014. “When I took over this squadron had 29 cadets. It went as high as 51, 52.”

This year the number is hovering in the low 40’s.

“This year has definitely been a transition year for us. But we’re confident we can help make this a stronger force in the community,” said Katya Wallis, squadron sponsor committee chair.

The squadron pulls cadets from Calmar, Leduc County, New Sarepta, Pigeon Lake and even the south side of Edmonton.

Martinez says a city the size of Leduc could easily support a squadron of 60 cadets. “I think it’s because the community doesn’t know about it yet.”

He adds the Royal Canadian Air Cadets program promotes citizenship and leadership qualities in its cadets, as well as sports and other physical interests.

The program is for youths between the ages of 12 and 18.

There are camp opportunities and even a Canadian Space Program component, as well as survivor training, navigation, and the principals of flight.

There is an international cadet exchange program and this year cadets could have the opportunity to travel to Australia, New Zealand, France, China, South Korea, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom or the United States.

Martinez says two of his cadets have their private pilots licence and one of the two also has a glider pilot license. “They could legally drive a plane before they could legally drive a car. That’s good bragging rights.”

“We stimulate an interest in the air element of the Canadian Forces,” he added.

Because the squadron has no permanent home at the moment it is using three St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic school division (STAR) locations. “I’m thankful STAR stepped up to the plate and helped us but we could always use more help,” said Martinez.

The Royal Canadian Air Cadets program is free for cadets but Martinez says the Department of National Defense can only fund so much. “The league side the parents, we charge them their time to volunteer to fundraise.”