One of the country's oldest youth programs, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, traces its roots back to 1861 when drill associations were created.
To think of a cadets program as new, with this kind of history behind it, may seem odd, but new is the word Captain Mary Ward uses to describe the Army Cadets Seaforth Highlanders 2277 (Langley).
The Highlanders began their program in Sept. 2010 with just four cadets, and as Ward points out, great things have happened in the past two seasons.
"In June of 2011 we had 52 cadets," Ward said. "It's huge growth. It's phenomenal, it's a phenomenal training program."
If the term "training program" conjures up images of endless hours in a classroom listening to someone drone on, a little "brushing up" on army cadets knowledge is required.
"The army cadets program itself is an adventure program," noted Ward. "It has moved away from the military concept, but has the same principles."
Running from early September to late June, the program coincides with the school season and can occupy from one to three days a week, depending on what the cadet is interested in.
"If we have an interest [from within the cadets in a specialized activity], we'll make sure we provide the training," Ward said.
The program appeals most to youth with a yearning for outdoor activities that will push their personal and team limits.
Training in the areas of map and compass use, orienteering, outdoor survival skills, trekking, mountain biking, and more, are part of the program.
Some of the specialized training activities can include marksmanship, biathlon, and musical training, like that for a pipe and drum band.
Leadership is also an important aspect of the program which Ward knows well. She knew nothing about the army cadets until her son took an interest in it.
"My son got involved in it and he went through everything [all the levels of programming]," she said. "And now he's back in the program contributing as an officer."
More than just adventure outings, army cadets are also involved in activities to help develop confidence, healthy living habits, discipline, and a connection to their Canadian heritage. Plus, each year a few top cadets participate in expeditions where they travel to international destinations.
"There is no cost to join army cadets," commented Ward.
She continued by saying the only expectation is participation, and that includes involvement from parents or guardians in fundraising activities.
"Just basically parent involve-ment," she said.
There is no registration fee to join and over the course of a cadet's career, they can receive a value of nearly $12,000 in training and programs.
The army cadets program is available to youth who are past their 12th birthday, but under age 19.
The new training night for Army Cadets Seaforth Highlanders 2277 (Langley) is Tuesdays 6: 30 to 9: 15 p.m. (but arrive by 6: 20 p.m.) starting Sept. 11 at Langley Secondary School, 21405 56 Ave.
For more information about cadets in Langley, contact Captain Mary Ward at 7788672225 or mary.ward@cadets. gc.ca or see the website at www. seaforthpsc.org/index.php/2277langley-sponsor.