Handley Page air cadets squadron commanding officer Keith Odlin (back, third from left) and cadets from all over the world visited 10 Downing Street and many other tourist attractions in England this summer as part of the International Air Cadet Exchange program. The local air cadets program is back up and running in Parrsboro, meeting at the legion on Monday evenings at 6:30 p.m.
PARRSBORO – The year is just beginning for local air cadets, but it already looks like a busy schedule ahead for the local youths.
Keith Odlin, commanding officer of 689 Handley Page squadron said 24 cadets are registered for the program so far, and there is room for new recruits at any point during the year. Open to children between the ages of 12-18, the organization provides plenty of opportunities.
“They could sign up Monday, and by Sunday we’re going flying,” said Odlin, referring to a planned session of glider and power flying at the Debert base this weekend.
And that is not all this year’s group of cadets can look forward to. An overnight campout is being planned for either the Sept. 27-28 weekend or early October, while the cadets will also be participating in annual Remembrance Day activities on Nov. 11. Some senior cadets will be taking part in a leadership camp in Cape Breton later in November, while winter will bring another overnight campout and a trip to CFB Greenwood.
Other activities will include rocket-making, and cadets will also have the chance to qualify for a marksmanship competition in February.
While the local squadron might be considered small by some standards, Odlin said it is well in line with what should be expected.
“We usually hope for 10 per cent of the high school population, and this year’s enrollment is about 192,” he said. “Last Monday was our first meeting night and we were parading 21 cadets, and three others couldn’t be there, so we’re doing pretty good.”
Combine that with a robust staff of six instructors, including two female officers, three males, and other parent volunteers, and the commanding officer has a good feeling about the year ahead.
It is a busy time of year for anyone working with cadets but, for Odlin, it was also a busy summer. He served as the Canadian escort officer for the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) to the United Kingdom, an 18-day trip from July 19 to Aug. 8 that started with three days in Ottawa, and went on to include 15 days in England, where he was responsible for 16 cadets from squadrons across the country.
Based out of Brunel University in Oxbridge, they toured all of the sites, including 10 Downing Street, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, and a Shakespeare play in the Globe Theatre. He also took cadets on a trip on the London Underground, a cruise on the Thames River, witnessed the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and a visit to RF Cranwell for flying at the home of the British air force.
“It was an awesome opportunity for the cadets,” said Odlin. “It wasn’t a holiday. I was up at 5:30 every morning and up until 11, 12 or 1, depending on what needed to be dealt with, only to be back up at 5:30 solidly for three weeks. They were very full days.”
He said his cadets were very well behaved and represented Canada well.
Odlin wasn’t the only member of his family on the move with the cadet organization this summer. His 18-year-old son Alexander also took part in the IACE trip to the United States, spending his days in Washington, D.C. and Maryland after the initial gathering in Ottawa.
He was one of 17 Canadian cadets on the trip, visiting various memorials and monuments, and air force bases such as Andrews, where Air Force One was at the time. They also got to fly in some Blackhawk helicopters, which was a highlight of the visit for him.
“It was interesting, to say the least,” said Alexander. “There’s definitely a difference between Canadians and Americans, which is more evident to me now. Certainly being with all the other countries was really great; I got to make good friends with cadets from all over.”
Other memorable experiences for local cadets this summer was participation in Wings Over Canada, in which they got to fly in vintage Canadian aircraft and meet such heroes as Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.
The opportunities through air cadets are plenty and the cost is minimal. To find out more, visit the local cadets during their Monday meeting nights, at the Parrsboro legion at 6:30 p.m.