By Amy Woolvett
THE COAST GUARD
It was with passion and well-expressed thoughts that members of both the air and sea cadets stood in front of the Nova Scotia Cadet Detachment Commander and pleaded their case to keep a much-loved program.
The air cadet program is currently under review to be shut down indefinitely.
Currently, the air and sea cadet units have combined in order to share services and reduce both cost and volunteer manpower.
There are only six air cadets in the Shelburne program but they are a passionate group unwilling to lose the program.
Young adults 12 to 18 get the opportunity to take part in flying, gliding and studies in aerospace while developing good leadership, citizenship and physical fitness.
But with numbers so low for both air and sea cadets, organizers worry that both programs are at risk if they don’t remove the air cadet program.
“When the numbers get below 20 a red flag goes up,” said Major Bob Eagle the Nova Scotia Cadet Detachment Commander.
“This community has a strong ability for the sea program and will benefit long term if they focus on that program,” he told the group of cadets and parents at a meeting held last Monday night. “For kids set on air there is the option of going to another community.”
One parent told the Major that with the economic stability not great in Shelburne, it was not always feasible for parents to have to travel to the air cadet program in Liverpool.
Major Eagle said that if the program was cut, levels four and five would complete their air training to the end and younger levels would have the option of joining the sea cadets.
This decision hit hard for one young cadet, Harper LaPlante. Following in his older brothers footsteps, he waited with anticipation three years before finally getting the opportunity to join this past September.
While he always knew he wanted to join, he did not realize how powerful the pull to fly would be.
“I thought when I first started here I would fail,” said LaPlante. “Now that I am here I am proud to wear this uniform, I am proud to be an air cadet. With the training I receive I plan on becoming a pilot in the military, serving my country the way I would like. If you cut this squadron I won’t have that chance.”
If the plans for the air cadet program go through his only option to continue his training would be to travel to Liverpool.
“I will drive him to Liverpool if I have to,” said his mother Rhonda Baker LaPlante. “But of course I don't want to, I can neither afford it nor spare the time, but I do believe in the program and it's benefits.”
She said that there were so many things about the cadets that people in Shelburne County don’t know.
“Many of their summer courses, which the kids get paid to attend, are now also considered high school credit,” she said.
“I thought when I first started here I would fail,” said LaPlante. “Now that I am here I am proud to wear this uniform, I am proud to be an air cadet. With the training I receive I plan on becoming a pilot in the military, serving my country the way I would like. If you cut this squadron I won’t have that chance.” Harper
One parent asked if they could get the numbers up for the program would they be able to keep it.
But Major Eagle was skeptical. He warned that if the sea cadets were to join the air then the sea cadets would then be threatened.
In order to keep both programs the numbers would have to each be 20.
“I don’t think you will get 40,” said Major Eagle. “If we put a lot of resources into both we face risk of losing both.”
One sea cadet stood up to defend the air program saying that there were many opportunities to be on the sea in Shelburne County but very little to be in the air.
“If that is such an attraction here,” said Major Eagle. “Where are the numbers?
Another parent spoke up to say they would be willing to pay a membership fee to keep the program open but Major Eagle was firm in saying that they have been working hard to keep the cadet programs free in Nova Scotia.
Major Eagle said that the decision would be a difficult one.
“I have to synthesize everything I have heard tonight and come to whatever decision is the right one for Shelburne,” he said.
His recommendations will travel to Ottawa where the final decision will be made.