Ashcroft may lose Sea Cadets

Low enrolment and government cutbacks could signal the end of the cadet corps in Ashcroft.

347 Avenger Sea Cadets. Front: Noah Dafoe

347 Avenger Sea Cadets. Front: Noah Dafoe

For over 10 years, Ashcroft and Cache Creek have enjoyed a corps of sea cadets, butorps organizers have been told by the Department of National Defence, which sponsors the cadet program, that they need to get their numbers up by the end of the year or lose the program altogether.

Gerry Sask has been with the cadets since the started in Ashcroft in 2002. He said the numbers requirement has been there for a while, but numbers have been dropping. DND wants 30, but they’re willing to give Ashcroft a pass if they have 15 members. Earlier this year they were down to seven. Now they’re back up to 10.

Sask says he’s been talking to people, pounding on schools and spending hours on the phone talking to parents. It’s earned him three new cadets and he’s hoping for more.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about cadets, says Major Rob Truscott. Truscott grew up in Ashcroft and has been in the military for the last 20 years. He was never a cadet, but he did join the local scouts program while still a teen.

A lot of people equate cadets with the military, he said, and they think military is exclusively about war.

“We don’t push cadets into joining the military,” said Sask. Education comes first, he says. Students in grades 10-12 can earn extra credits towards their diploma through cadets. Most parents aren’t aware of this, he says.

Truscott says another thing that might scare parents away is the though of paying for cadet activities. Everything is paid for, he said. There are zero costs.

“The cadet program offers a lot of (free) opportunities,” said Sask. “Sailing weekends, summer camps, training for safe use of rifles, competitions…”

He said there’s a perception that cadets was all about marching and being yelled at. We don’t do that, he said – it’s considered bullying.

Truscott suggested that anyone wanting to know more about cadets come out for a training night and see what it’s all about.

More kids means a more diversified program, he said. Although kids can start at age 12, they can also start at anytime during the program.

“Small town parents need something to put their kids into,” he said.

If you’re interesting in hearing more about cadets, phone Gerry at 457-5309.