By Sue Tiffin
Published June 20 2017
The recurring theme of the 32nd annual inspection of the 1129 Haliburton Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps on June 10 was that despite the small size of the corps the pride for their accomplishments was great.
The 14 cadets from Haliburton Minden and Cardiff met amongst family friends veterans and their instructors at the Haliburton Legion to graduate from their annual star level. Awards including perfect attendance male and female fitness commanding officer’s award and cadet service medals were distributed to those who demonstrated leadership and maximum effort.
“You guys are looking very sharp I’m very proud to see what you’ve become” said reviewing officer Major Tracey White. “You don’t need to be 30 60 90 100 cadets to be a strong corps. Be very proud of what you did this year. Stand tall stand proud bring your friends out.”
Colt Taylor a cadet who aged out of the program when he turned 18 was at the ceremony as a civilian volunteer. He made the trek from his studies at Trent University in Peterborough each week to visit and help guide the Haliburton corps. He noted that some corps might have only 10 cadets while some have as many as 300.
“I’d like to help mentor and continue supporting the cadets program” he said. “It did reach a low point [in terms of membership] but we’ve had high points before and I’d like to help bring it back to that.”
The Haliburton corps has had up to 60 cadets but generally averaged 35 to 45 cadets until a few years ago when numbers dropped lower said Captain Dan Collings commanding officer.
“For comparison school enrolment is about half what it was when I moved here in 1991 so it is relative” he said. “We are seeing general decline in enrolment and retention in the cadet program across Canada.”
Collings said he believed a growing interest in technology played in the declining numbers; that people don’t interact in person as much and aren’t “joiners” anymore. He also noted a general lack of understanding of the cadets program might be deterring participants.
“What may be ‘scaring’ youth away is that there is still an uneducated belief that cadets must join the army” he said. “Not true. One of the aims of the cadet program is to stimulate an interest in the Canadian military. Our cadets learn some history structure traditions of the Canadian Forces but only to stimulate an interest. The entire cadet program is sanctioned and funded by the Canadian Armed Forces so what better way to assist recruiting by providing youth adventure while learning about the Canadian Forces?”
Grade 7 student Tamara Bellefeuille joined cadets just a few months ago after a friend suggested it. She said it had been fun so far especially the field training camps and encouraged others to join.
“It’ll be really cool to learn what you can do and how to build a fire out in the woods” she said. This year the Haliburton corps participated in a wide variety of activities and programs including marksmanship and orienteering training biathlon training and a competition in which two of the newest cadets won bronze medals field training exercises with Peterborough cadets bowling and treetop trekking. The cadets also joined a 250-person Barrack Room dinner in Peterborough that included a teen dance. Summer camps are provided free with cadets at staff level earning money for their time there. Next year instructors hope to add mountain biking canoeing and pipe and drum band to the program.
Collings said two of his current staff members were 12 years old when they started their cadet career.
“Now they are great parents have great careers and are quite active at their job and organizations that help people. A great thing to see indeed.”
The officer commanding is clearly passionate about his corps and the cadets program. He was an air cadet himself in Welland in the ’70s.
“I am 100 per cent certain it was a major contributing factor to what kind of person I am today” said Collings. “Work hard. Work together. Never give up. Take charge. Get up and try again when you fall. Pride in yourself. Esprit de corps as a group. Learn. Get involved. Help others.”
The Haliburton corps meet on Tuesdays at the Haliburton Legion from 6:30 to 9 p.m. For more information about the program call 705-457-8002 or visit the corps on Facebook at 1129 Haliburton Army Cadets. Anyone older than 12 is able to join.
“Haliburton County is not a huge community” said Collings. “We need to make every effort to help our young people be successful. Maybe they will run our country some day.”