By Phil McLachlan
The Fernie Army Cadets and the Sparwood Air Cadets are looking to expand in the new year.
Juliana Pater has been an Army Cadet, ever since she moved to Fernie four years ago. Born and raised in Edmonton, Pater’s military father encouraged her to join. At first she wasn’t enthusiastic, but was surprised at what it gave her.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities with it… I’ve done a lot of stuff I wouldn’t do in my normal life,” said Pater.
Thinking back, Pater thought about the Expedition instructor course, which involved canoeing in the wilderness for five days. Another adventure involved trekking out to a very hard-to-reach park, known as Cathedral Lake Provincial Park.
“You’re trained to perform, and do the best you can at everything,” she said.
Pater believes that leadership and respect is the most enforced lesson throughout her training so far in the cadets. Starting out, the cadets put you in a position to be led, eventually bringing the individual to a point of leadership.
In her four years, Pater has reached the rank of warrant officer, or regimental sergeant major. She is in charge of all the cadets in the cadet corps, which involves organizing events and being a role model/teacher for newer members. This was achieved through three summer training programs, a gold star expedition, a regional expedition and staffing experience.
“On the higher level, it gives me a little more of an advantage for university applications,” said Pater.
In self-reflection Pater sees herself as a different, more developed person and a stronger character than she was before joining.
Throughout the years, Pater has noticed that different clubs get different funding. Cadet programs in larger cities are still thriving and constantly growing, but Pater notices that everything from members, to equipment and opportunities in smaller towns can be in short supply.
“If we were able to not only get out in the public but do more activities, that would help,” said Pater. “I want to do a lot more with what we have, but it’s hard if you don’t have the resources.”
Pater wants to become involved with other corps, in order to grow their numbers as well as their family. The future for her, she hopes, lies at the Royal Military College. This is a recent dream of hers, and she believes her future would have been quite different if she had not joined the cadets.
“I don’t know who I would be without the cadets right now,” said Pater, beaming. “All the things I did, all the summers I spent, they were amazing. I don’t think I would have had the same connection with the world if I didn’t go to cadets.”
Cpt. Peaches Pennock has been running the Army Cadet corp in Fernie for seven years, she got to this position after working her way up through the program. She was originally an air cadet with the Sparwood corp, which recently moved into the Sparwood Fire Hall.
“I’ve got to see some pretty amazing changes in some of these kids, from when they join to when they leave the program,” said Pennock. “I just love the program, I do this to make these kids better, give them the leadership skills, the skills to make them do better in their adult lives.”
There are 10 members currently in the Fernie Army Cadet regiment, but Pennock would like to see, ideally 20 members. The more members they have, the more quotas they have to send kids to camps and national or international programs. Most of the funding that supports programs and trips for the cadets is through fundraising, and through supporters such as the Legion. The Fernie regiment is hoping to travel to Edmonton in April for a Vimy Ridge demonstration, for which they are currently taking donations to help fund the trip.
Twin boys in the Fernie regiment, the Weber brothers, leave on Friday, Jan. 6, traveling to Vernon for a shooting competition. If they do well, they travel to Provincials and then onwards to Nationals.
For those not sure about joining the army cadets, Pennock says, “You don’t know until you try.”