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Parent Handbook

The Cadet Program is the premiere youth program in Canada. It includes the Royal Canadian Sea, Army and Air Cadets. It is a national program for young Canadians aged 12 to 18 who are interested in participating in a variety of fun, challenging and rewarding activities while learning about the sea, army and air activities of the Canadian Forces.

Cadets are encouraged to become active, responsible members of their communities. They make valuable contributions to Canadian society on a daily basis in terms of environmental, citizenship and community activities. Cadets also learn valuable life and work skills such as teamwork, leadership and citizenship.

Coached and supervised by Officers of the Canadian Forces, cadets progress through stages of increasing responsibilities and leadership, with senior cadets organizing and taking a lead role in many of the activities.

The Cadet Program is open to youth aged 12 to 18 and 540 Sqn is always looking to recruit new members.

Cadets are not members of the Canadian Armed Forces, nor are they expected to join the military.

Questions are great and we encourage parents to get involved, ask questions, and understand the program. We’ve seen that parents who understand the program are more likely to be able to support their cadets as they face and overcome challenges.

Chain of Command

It is standard operating procedure for Air Cadet units to operate with a clearly defined chain of command. This is beneficial because the Commanding Officer – being only one person – can not realistically meet with each cadet or parent individually. In order to fully meet the needs of the cadets and their parents, we adhere to our Chain of Command.

The Chain of Command is the command hierarchy within our unit starting at the top with our CO, proceeding down to section heads, junior staff, and then down through our staff cadets and ultimately ending at the bottom with our brand new recruits.

How should cadets use the Chain of Command? 

All of our cadets learn about the chain of command – right from Day #1 in recruit training – and we encourage all of our cadets to follow that chain of command when asking questions or speaking to staff. This means that cadets should contact a peer, their Flight Commander, or a Warrant Officer before jumping straight to an adult staff member. This gives your cadet the chance to go through the process of problem-solving as well as practising communication skills, taking initiative, and conquering fears.

The cadet they ask will either answer the question, or continue the process up the Chain of Command until an answer is found, and brought back down the chain.

How should parents support the Chain of Command? 

We understand that you may have questions and that it can be frustrating sometimes feeling left out of communication flows. However, we encourage you to step back and let your cadet do the work instead of you taking charge and spoon feeding them answers.

Not only does that build initiative on your cadets’ part, it also gives our senior cadets (the role your child will eventually perform) opportunities to fulfill their leadership responsibilities.

Having said that, we know that most of our cadets need a little extra support from their parents in their first year. We make it easy for parents to stay up to date in the same way as our cadets – our website. All announcements, sign up forms, administrative issues are all posted online for you and your cadet to read together.

In addition, 1st year parents are strongly encouraged to come into the Blakelock gym for closing parades on Tuesday evenings to listen to the announcements.

Bypassing the Chain of Command

There are occasions when it is necessary to bypass the Chain of Command, e.g. due to time constraints, safety issues, sensitive issues not appropriate for youth to deal with, or other reasons. In these situations it is appropriate and encouraged for cadets or parents to directly contact a staff member.

All our staff members have an open door policy. In fact, the staff office sits in the main school hallway – so there are no doors.

Does this mean cadets/parents should not interact with staff members?

Absolutely not!

Our staff pride themselves on their ability to connect and mentor our youth. One of the main reasons they dedicate so much of their personal time to this program is because they enjoy working directly with, and making an impact on, our youth.

Adult staff who wear a uniform at 540 Sqn are members of the Cadet Instructure Cadre (CIC) branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. As a member of the CIC, they belong to the Cadet Organization Administration and Training Service (COATS) sub-component of the Canadian Forces Reserve.

As a part of the CIC, our CAF Officers at 540 Sqn are specifically tasked with the supervision, administration, and training of our cadets. As a member of the Reserves, all of our Officer staff have full time day jobs and dedicate their evenings, weekends, and sometimes vacation days to the development of the youth under our care.

In addition, to our Officer staff, we also have a number of civilian staff members who all have either full time jobs or are currently post-secondary students.

In either case, the vast majority of our adult staff were Air Cadets before, and approximately half of our staff were cadets here at 540 Sqn!

All of our adult staff either have full time day jobs or are post-secondary students. They dedicate and volunteer their evenings, weekends, and sometimes vacation days to the development of the youth of 540 Sqn.

Our recruiting staff are quick to point out that the Earth’s surface is composed of approximately 1/3 land and 2/3 water, but the entire Earth’s surface has air.

That may be a slightly biased response, so interpret that as you wish.

The Air, Army, and Sea programs share many common goals such as the development of young Canadians into future leaders that have the skills to be successful in society. All three programs have similar rank and progression structures, similar opportunities for leadership and teamwork, as well as a similar core training program. Where the programs differ is the elemental academic training content as well as the selection of extra-curricular activities above the core training program.

What the Air elemental academic training provides is a focus on aviation, aerospace, principles of flight, propulsion, meteorology, etc.

Extra-curricular activities include the opportunity for all cadets to experience glider familiarization flights, aviation themed trips, as well as the opportunity to receive a Glider Pilot Scholarship and/or Power Pilot Scholarship.

Cadets are not members of the Canadian Armed Forces, nor are they expected to join the military.

Having said that, many of our cadets come to appreciate and excel within the highly structured environment that the cadet program provides. As such, many of them choose to join the Canadian Armed Forces, or other similar paramilitary organizations such as police services or EMS.

Whatever route they take, youth who participate and get involved with the cadet program go on to become successful members of society.

Absolutely not!

Approximately 1/3 of our cadets and 1/2 of our staff are female.

The cadet program provides an excellent environment for positive influence and encouraging role models.

To be eligible for membership as a Cadet the recruit must

  1. Be a legal resident of Canada:
    NOTE: A legal resident of Canada is a Canadian citizen, a landed immigrant, or, the dependent of a person who is lawfully resident in Canada on a temporary basis for the purpose of education or employment.
  2. Provide proof of provincial health insurance coverage or equivalent;
  3. Be at least 12 years of age;
  4. Not have attained 19 years of age;
  5. Normally be in good physical condition;
  6. Not belong to another corps or squadron; and
  7. Be acceptable to the Commanding Officer (CO) of the cadet corps or squadron.

540 Sqn is funded at the national level by the Department of National Defence in partnership with the civilian Air Cadet League of Canada. The civilian sponsor requires local community support to meet its obligations that include accommodations, training aids and equipment and program enhancements not otherwise provided. Parents and cadets are expected to participate in and contribute to fund raising as required by the Squadron Sponsoring Committee.

The Squadron Sponsoring Committee requests a $100 annual registration fee per cadet ($75 for any additional siblings). This is not a mandatory fee. Cadets that are unable to pay this fee are not excluded and are invited to discuss their situation with the SSC Chair or Commanding Officer.

The training year follows the school year and runs from September to June. As such, we encourage new recruits to join at the beginning of September. Each year we hold a BBQ in early September to welcome back existing cadets and run an open house for prospective new recruits. If unable to attend the BBQ, new recruits and parents are welcome to attend Blakelock High School on any Tuesday training night at 1830 hrs to speak to our recruiting staff.

We do not have any geographic restrictions/boundaries and do have cadets attend 540 Sqn from Burlington and Mississauga. However, the distance does put stress on parents/drivers who have to make the longer commute to drop off / pick up their cadet each Tuesday evening.

Something else to keep in mind is if your cadet decides to become more involved with extra-curriculars (e.g. band, range, drill team, etc.) the driving commitment on your part may also increase as they will need to be in Oakville multiple evenings a week.

We accept transfers from other squadrons or corps. Please let the previous unit know that you are transferring to 540 Sqn.

We still require you to complete all of the registration paperwork. When completing the application, please highlight the previous service at the top of the form.

The Cadet Program is an all inclusive and accommodating program.

We encourage you to speak to our recruiting staff in person on a Tuesday training night or email us with any questions.

A Field Training Exercise (FTX) is an overnight 3 day, 2 night training weekend where cadets learn a significant portion of their mandatory training. The daytime consists of training and activities, and in the afternoons the cadets get time off to socialize with peers before resting for the next day of work.

Training topics covered on an FTX include:

  • Survival psycology
  • Fire building
  • Snare building
  • Shelter building
  • Radio navigation
  • Fitness

The bulk of this training occurs in the Fall FTX which is considered a mandatory training activity. It is required that all cadets attend the Fall FTX in order to pass their training level.

In addition to the Fall FTX, there is also a Spring and Summer FTX. These FTXs are complimentary and are not mandatory events. It is strongly encouraged for all cadets, especially 1st year cadets, to attend all FTXs.

A new recruit is eligible to join any of our teams during their intake periods, usually in September. Most teams go through a “tryout” selection process and require multiple weeks of attendance before final decisions can be made.

Selection is not always solely based on immediate skill; motivation, learning ability, maturity, and other factors are also taken into consideration, so your cadet shouldn’t feel discouraged just because they’re new!

If your cadet does not make a team it is recommended that they try out for another open team – previous team status is not a factor.

Upon your arrival you and your recruit may observe training of the other cadets to get a feel for the environment and atmosphere. Once recruiting paperwork has been completed, can begin training.

On the first few regular training nights a new recruit will go through initial training, consisting of:

  • Procedures for communicating with superiors
  • Basics of marching
  • Personal deportment

The transition from civilian to cadet can be intimidating, and your recruit will need your support and encouragement throughout the training process.

Submitting measurements for your cadet’s uniform can be done on a paper form (obtainable from recruit staff) or can be done online through the cadet dashboard.

In the first few months of training it can take 2-3 months for the uniform to arrive due to the large volume of uniforms; after that, it may take 4-6 weeks. Once the uniform arrives your cadet will be taught how to properly wear and maintain their uniform.

It is important to understand that only cadets that have finished the recruit program will be eligible to receive their uniform.

In order to be eligible for recruit graduation, recruits must have attended 5 nights of recruit curriculum training and have reached the minimum drill standard.

The curriculum rotates on a 6 week cycle so it is imperative that your recruit attends regularly during these weeks.

Mandatory activities are outlined in the mandatory activity calendar.

Some of the most important are:

  • Tuesday training nights
  • Tagging fundraiser
  • Fall FTX
  • Public parades

If your cadet is uncertain, please encourage your cadet to seek advice from senior cadets, or email [email protected]

A Field Training Exercise (FTX) is an overnight 3 day, 2 night training weekend where cadets learn a significant portion of their mandatory training. The daytime consists of training and activities, and in the afternoons the cadets get time off to socialize with peers before resting for the next day of work.

Training topics covered on an FTX include:

  • Survival psycology
  • Fire building
  • Snare building
  • Shelter building
  • Radio navigation
  • Fitness

The bulk of this training occurs in the Fall FTX which is considered a mandatory training activity. It is required that all cadets attend the Fall FTX in order to pass their training level.

In addition to the Fall FTX, there is also a Spring and Summer FTX. These FTXs are complimentary and are not mandatory events. It is strongly encouraged for all cadets, especially 1st year cadets, to attend all FTXs.

A new recruit is eligible to join any of our teams during their intake periods, usually in September. Most teams go through a “tryout” selection process and require multiple weeks of attendance before final decisions can be made.

Selection is not always solely based on immediate skill; motivation, learning ability, maturity, and other factors are also taken into consideration, so your cadet shouldn’t feel discouraged just because they’re new!

If your cadet does not make a team it is recommended that they try out for another open team – previous team status is not a factor.

The tagging fundraiser (“tagging”) occurs twice a year and is the squadron’s primary source of fundraising. Money raised through tagging is used to pay for school rentals, transportation, training equipment, supplies, etc.

One session is held in the fall at the beginning of the training year and a second session is held in the spring. Each tagging weekend runs from Thursday to Sunday and includes 6 shifts that the cadets can sign up for and participate in. Each shift is approximately 4-5 hours. While on a shift, cadets will assigned a retail location in Oakville. New/junior cadets are paired with senior cadets at each location.

Cadets are expected to participate in at least 3 tagging sessions on each weekend.

A CO’s Parade is held once a month (usually the first Tuesday) and are an opportunity for the CO to inspect each cadet and the squadron as a whole. All cadets are expected to attend these evenings and to look as sharp as possible – you don’t want the CO to be commenting on long hair or unpolished boots!

The parade takes place during third period and parents are encouraged to attend.

Summer Training, also known as “summer camp” is performed at a Cadet Summer Training Centre (CSTC). It provides cadets with in depth and specialized knowledge to supplement their regular training. Courses run during July and August, and range from 2 to 7 weeks long. Some of the topics offered through summer training include aviation, leadership, fitness, marksmanship, survival, music, and more.

Living arrangements vary between training centres, and may include barracks, student residences, or semi-permanent softwall shelters. Cadets will share a sleeping space with peers, separated by gender.

All meals will be provided by the training centre, and will be served in the mess hall or equivalent dining facility. Cadets may also have an opportunity to eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Snacks and drinks can be purchased from the canteen during their free time.

Cell phones are not permitted during training hours, and can only be used during free time (evenings and weekends). Cadets will have access to pay phones during their stay at a CSTC, and can purchase calling cards from the canteen or bring them from home. You may also write mail to your cadet, to the address found in the joining instructions for your cadet’s CSTC. In the event of an emergency, please contact the Duty Centre for your cadet’s CSTC, found in the joining instructions.