Local Cadets Corps give youth ‘a level playing field’

By Amanda Dumcombe Lee

Haliburton resident Colt Taylor says joining the longstanding 1129 Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment Army Cadet Corps in Haliburton at the age of 12 made him the adult he is today. 

“It was the best thing that I ever decided to do with my life, and I’ve heard that from several people I went to Cadets with,” said Taylor, who joined the Cadets the week of his 12th birthday and stayed until he aged out at 19. The 24-year-old is now a regular volunteer with the group. 

“The people I met, the relationships I made – lifelong relationships, friendships; all the different experiences – every time I meet one of those people, I just get a huge nostalgia boost. It’s a huge part of who I am today, and what I became. I hope that as many Cadets that join the Corps get that experience … It provides so much for young people.”

Over his seven years as a Cadet, Taylor worked hard and moved up the ranks, eventually becoming regimental sergeant major and overseeing responsibility for the group’s activities. Specializing in marksmanship, drill and ceremonial, he was given opportunities to receive professional training, attend free summer camps, and develop his leadership skills and confidence.

Taylor said that while one of the aims of the Cadets is to promote interest in the Canadian Armed Forces, there is no pressure for members to join the military, and most of his peers in the Cadets went on to pursue other interests. Taylor now works at Outdoors Plus in Haliburton and runs his own recyclable fishing lures business, Haliburtonian Baits.

“It taught me about leadership and growing up. Not to mention all the skills I learned,” he said. 

Commanding Officer Corina Hall Mansfield also joined the Cadets at age 12 and specialized in music, navigation, and expedition. She has held multiple positions within the corps and has been the commanding officer, commissioned by the Canadian Forces Supplementary Reserve, since 2019. 

Now the owner/operator of Harcourt-based Deep Roots Adventure, Mansfield said her participation in Cadets was a formative part of her experience as a youth, providing her with stability and confidence, and triggering her love of instruction, leadership and physical fitness.

Mansfield said being in the Cadets gives youth an opportunity to participate in “a level playing field.”

“It’s federally funded, and we have community support, so it doesn’t matter what their socioeconomic status is,” she said. “They get equal opportunity to do anything. It gives them really awesome life skills, leadership, communication, self-confidence, practical skills, trip planning, survival, marksmanship, opportunity to go to camp in the summer. I really feel Cadets is a good equalizer for youth in the community.”

Mansfield said the local Cadets Corps facilitated a mountain biking program over the fall, will be hosting biathlon at Glebe Park, indoor rock climbing at Medeba, and hosts an ongoing marksmanship program. They will soon be partnering with Point in Time and the Haliburton County Youth Hub to offer mindful movement based on the Mindfulness Martial Arts program to help Cadets with managing stress and responsibilities.

“Seasonally, we try to utilize anything local we have available,” she said.

The local Cadets Corps currently meet every Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 129, and sometimes hosts additional activities during weeknights and weekends. There is no fee to join. For information on how to sign up or to drop in to check out the program, email haliburtonarmycadets@gmail.com. To get a broader overview of the program, visit cadets.ca.