New cadet corps
You may have seen cadets in camouflage and big smiles, milling about North and South Glengarry over the last few months.
These young people are members of the new cadet corps in Alexandria, designated as the ACFC No. 1 Donald Highlanders, Alexandria Cadet Force, or ACFC Cadets, Alexandria for short.
This new cadet program, for youth aged 12 to 19 is independent of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, and provides a different model than the traditional army cadet program.
The new group is holding an information and registration night for parents and adult volunteers May 25, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Sandfield Centre at Island Park in Alexandria. Youth interested in joining, are encouraged to bring a parent or guardian and sign up. There will be a short presentation and video starting at 6:30 p.m. and parents, caregivers and youth will get to meet volunteers and cadets.
Those unable to attend the registration night may contact the ACFC at [email protected] or follow the corps on Instagram @acfc_canada
The unit's acting Captain, Simon McDonald, notes that there is already an Air Cadet program in Alexandria. “The Glengarry Mustangs Air Cadets in Alexandria is an excellent program,” he says, adding he respects the organization. “However, it's a once a week program, with occasional weekends and a summer camp. Our program is completely different as it's an every-day after-school program, and runs all summer long for youth that do not get the opportunity to go away for camp.”
He adds that the two programs are not in competition with each other.
“I encourage every child of eligible age to join the Mustangs. ACFC Cadets are welcome to participate in any other program such as Air Cadets or Scouts. Our committee also felt as members of the community and parents, that we had to do something to keep the youth of Glengarry engaged and on track in the wake of the recent drug arrests in Alexandria. At the end of the day it's all about the kids,” says Mr. McDonald.
He is well known as Chairman of Clan Donald Festivals, who along with his team, was responsible for saving the 2017 Festival of Lights, and staged McSanta in Martintown, the Kilt Skate and Operation Cold Turkey in Alexandria. He is also a member of the board for half a dozen other community groups and committees. Mr. McDonald relates: “We started our cadet program in early March of this year with 10 Cadets as a soft-launch to gauge the interest from the kids and the community. Since then we have received an overwhelmingly positive response and tremendous interest in our program, and we are now ready to expand our force. We currently have the capacity in terms of funding and adult supervision to add up to an additional 50 cadets.”
ACFC focuses on community service, life skills, and wilderness survival, and is largely based on the British ACF. All adult instructors and adult supervisors are vulnerable sector screened volunteers, and due to the volunteer workforce and low administration costs, the majority of ACFC's funding goes directly to the cadets' training, equipment, and facilities.
At the core of ACFC, is an after school drop-in centre where youth can go and play pool, video games and hang out with their friends in a drug and alcohol-free environment supervised by adult volunteers. The local headquarters will be open six days per week, from Monday to Saturday beginning in September. A location for the centre has not yet been determined. Cadets will learn and practise a variety of valuable skills Friday Parade Nights, and optional weekend field training exercises, throughout the year. They will learn G1 licence instruction, G2 road test preparation, cooking, budget and project management, leadership, water safety, wilderness survival, marksmanship and firearms safety, critical thinking and situational awareness.
There is also a huge emphasis on community service, and veteran appreciation. ACFC Cadets have already participated in clean-up activities in St. Raphael's, and Alexandria Island Park as well as taken part in Operation Cold Turkey, a Clan Donald initiative to raise awareness of poverty issues, and collect donations of cash and groceries for the local food bank.
The entire program including the uniforms and camping equipment are provided free of charge, and is funded by the community and local business sponsors. ACFC Cadets is an independent civilian organization, with an army theme and is not part of or affiliated with the Canadian Forces or the Department of National Defence. Cadets have no obligation to join the Canadian Forces.
ACFC is also looking to expand the number of adult volunteers. Current and former Canadian Forces members will have a chance to teach their unique skills such as bushcraft and winter survival and help the youth of the community stay on track. Previous military experience is an asset but not required. ACFC also has volunteer positions for adult supervisors and support committee members.