Young people on a mission
While many teenagers sleep or play video games all weekend, 40 of their peers are flying planes, firing weapons and honing their survival skills in the bush.
Lying in bed all morning is unthinkable to cadets in the Porirua Air Training Corps, who relish opportunities such as spending a week in Waiouru barracks, rising at 5am and eating meals alongside real soldiers.
Bishop Viard College student Alex Ogilvie, 15, recently spent his school holidays doing just that, as part of a leadership training course that resulted in his promotion to corporal.
Alex wants to become an Air Force medic and said being a cadet had given him the skills and confidence to pursue his goals.
‘‘ It really teaches you to be always prepared and have everything to the standard it should be, and how to lead people,’’ he said.
‘‘ You can just feel yourself improve every year. You get more organised, more self-disciplined. You can get up at five in the morning and do all these jobs.’’
The cadets meet every Monday at 6.30pm for drill practice at Ngatitoa Domain.
Drill was an essential part of discipline and leadership because experienced cadets taught newbies the ropes, said officer Chris Asbery, one of the squadron’s leaders. ‘‘The whole ethos is leadership,’’ he said.
Most teens were attracted to air cadets for the flying lessons, which were held at Paraparaumu airport every six weeks, Mr Asbery said.
‘‘That’s our big draw. Sea cadets have boats, army cadets have mud, because they don’t have tanks, and we have planes.’’
Every second weekend cadets can get stuck into activities or attend courses as diverse as plane navigation, bushcraft and first aid.
‘‘We’ll be flying, camping, shooting. It’s pretty full on,’’ Mr Asbery said.
The confidence cadets gave to some teenagers was remarkable, he said.
Tawa College student Grace O’Neill, 13, had come out of her shell in the months since joining, a change her teachers and family had commented on, Mr Asbery said.
‘‘From a girl who wouldn’t say boo to a goose to someone who can interact – it was a pretty steep learning curve.’’
Another new recruit, 13-yearold Tawa College student Zac Rose, said learning to fly with the cadets had changed his whole life plan. ‘‘It was amazing. It’s awesome. I took off wanting to be a computer programmer, I landed wanting to be an Air Force pilot.’’
Gun un-shy: Grace O’Neill, 13, overcame her shyness after joining the Porirua air cadets and has thrown herself into activities such as rifle training.