Members of the Castor Cadet Squad #572 held a meeting on Wednesday, February 5 at the Coronation Drop In Centre to discuss the future of the squad with Coronation as it’s base. It was a full house facing a panel of six Cadet representatives toward the front of the room.
A panel of six representatives of the Cadet League were in attendance, including Commanding Officer Cpt. Phil Ricard, Chairman of the ACL Board of Alberta Directors Kevin Robinson and Prairie Region Officer of Training Maj. William Woollven from Winnipeg.
The meeting launched with recognition of the community member turnout, with Woollven commenting that it was a positive sign for the squadron.
“I appreciate your passion. I appreciate your drive,” Woollven said to Annette Allen, Chair of the Squadron Sponsoring Committee and advocate for the continued presence of #572 in the community.
With introductions and pleasantries aside, Woollven got down to the fundamentals. He was quick to stress that without a reliable base of officers, maintenance of a squadron in the long-term would be difficult.
“It’s a community based program,” Woollven said. “Without the support of the community, it will not survive – period full stop.” He noted the lack of consistent community engagement to provide support staff in Castor was a key factor in the decision to explore options with the squadron, noting that without officers to carry out prescribed training the squad was as effective as a drop in center for youth.
It was discussed that much of the foundational elements of the squadron were still in place, with the Castor Legion sponsoring, support from the Coronation Elks and an agreement to parade in the Coronation hall.
Woollven acknowledged these positives but was quick to observe logistical concerns for the squadron to consider.
“We’re running into a bit of a time issue,” he said of #572 starting up again. “This is probably a process that should have been started a long time ago.”
It was noted that Cpt. Ricard, the sole Commanding Officer, would be retiring in three months and the squadron had 27 parade periods to make up – the cumulative total of about three full weekends of training.
Some cadets spoke to their frustrations with the cessation of the training, noting that it was beyond their control and querying why it had to stop so suddenly. It was noted that Ricard was overloaded with responsibility and was having trouble maintaining his schedule of duties solo.
Cadets and parents alike expressed a willingness to put in the effort to make up for lost time. Optimal training days were discussed in brief.
“If we decided to operate squadron, I will be here to support it,” noted Ricard in a display of goodwill. “I will support the new commanding officer when he or she is appointed. I will give them six months of volunteer time after my 65 birthday to support that commanding officer.”
Allen noted that she had two community members with Civilian Instructor applications ready; which could be processed in parallel, noted Robinson. Estimates were the appropriate paperwork could possibly be finalized in a month’s time.
A challenge was brought up that deadlines had now passed Cadets to apply for summer camps and scholarships.
“You’re looking at the guy that makes decisions on regional camps, so that’s not an issue,” offered Woollven, much to the visible relief of the Cadets. It was prompted to the crowd if any parents would be interested in getting their kids involved and a collection of hands went up. Individuals offered notes of optimism: one woman had three children that would be cadet age by March; another offered that five children at Veteran school had expressed interest.
It was discussed that posters could be put in schools, Town Council could be appealed to for assistance, local media looked to for promotion of the cause and a continued push to get more people interested in becoming Civilian Instructors and kids out to take part.
At the end of the meeting it appeared as though the cogs were in motion to get Coronation ready to be the #572’s new home. Though it was stressed this would be an ongoing process and much work had to be done, it was evident that the community had pulled through in giving promise for a new dawn with the cadets.
“This was an outcome I was not expecting, but I am pleasantly surprised,” Woollven noted.