Air cadets

Captain Sarah Handrahan, commanding officer of the 641 West Prince Squadron, and Captain Marc Doucette of 641 West Prince Squadron, display the squadron’s National President Citation award, given by the PEI Provincial Air Cadet League. The squadron was one of only four squadrons from across the country to receive this award. See story below. Submitted photo

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The 641 West Prince Squadron was recently honoured with the National Presidential Certificate from the PEI Provincial Air Cadet League, one of only four squadrons across the country to receive this award.

This is the first time the squadron has received the certificate.

“It gives the squadron a little bit of a boost,” said Captain Sarah Handrahan, the squadron’s commanding officer. “Just because we’re small, we still have the chance and we’re still out there.”

Criteria for the certificate varies from year to year. This year, it recognized the efforts of squadron staff and sponsoring committees in providing creative and innovative at-home programs to keep cadets engaged during the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic.

Captain Handrahan explained how there are three aims for the Air Cadet Program: to develop in youth the attributes of good citizenship and leadership, to promote physical fitness, and to stimulate an interest in the air activities of the Canadian Armed Forces. She said she tried to keep the cadets as involved as she could, but didn’t want to hound them with extra work on top of what they were already doing with school and online learning.

“I put out a challenge every week, with one challenge related to all three of those aims,” said Captain Handrahan. “For promoting physical fitness, I asked them to get out and send me a video, picture, or let me know what they were doing out and about in relation to fitness or sports instead of being stuck inside all day. I did a lot of checking in, reminding them mental health is just as important as physical health.”

In regard to developing attributes of good citizenship, Captain Handrahan wanted the cadets to share stories and pictures of what they were doing with all their time of school that would fall under the good citizen category. To stimulate interest in the Canadian Forces, she wanted to know whether the cadets had something they wanted to learn about, including other branches like Army and Navy.

The squadron also received three National Certificates of Recognition, which acknowledge an individual or organization who made a unique and significant contribution that has benefited Air Cadets specifically, and the Air Cadet Movement overall. These were awarded to Captain Handrahan, Sponsoring Committee Chair Stephanie Kinch, and Sponsoring Committee member Roy Pederson.

Captain Handrahan said it’s nice being acknowledged for the work done in the background. She said cadets have a weekly training night, and for that one night there are two or three nights behind it in paperwork and in keeping up with courses, adding there’s been a lot of things to work on since September, and that the squadron staff and sponsoring committee has had a lot of follow ups and check lists to get done throughout the summer to get ready for when the squadron could once again meet in person, which happened just before Remembrance Day.

“We contacted each of our previous cadets and family by phone to touch base and fill them in on the changes for the upcoming year, and Nov 4 we finally resumed in person training,” said Captain Handrahan. “We’re looking forward to the challenge that the new year is bringing. We’re going to focus our training more locally, getting the cadets outside and exploring the community, and more fun approaches to the usual classroom training. We’re just looking forward to getting back into the swing of things!”

Now that in-person training is allowed, the squadron has been meeting every Wednesday at the Tignish Legion. Prior to this, they met at M.E. Callaghan Intermediate School, but because community events can’t take place at the school, the satellite office was set up in its place.

There are a dozen cadets in the squadron right now, but prior to the pandemic, that number was almost double.

“We’re a fairly small squadron in comparison to other squadrons across Canada,” Captain Handrahan concluded. “To be able to say we received the National Presidential Certificate for keeping the cadets engaged and surviving throughout COVID is pretty special.”

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