A Lacombe resident and member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets has been recognized by his squadron with a high honour.
Flight Sergeant Cameron MacCuaig of the 24 Squadron in Red Deer was awarded the Lord Strathcona Medal this year in recognition of his outstanding qualities and accomplishments as an air cadet.
MacCuaig said the Lord Strathcona Medal is an annual award given to one cadet from each participating squadron who is deemed by his or her officers and fellow cadets to be a leader and a hard worker.
During the squadron’s final parade of the year, MacCuaig learned he would be receiving the award when his name was called during the awards ceremony. He said his reaction was a mixture of pride and surprise.
“I was, honestly, probably the most shocked one there,” said MacCuaig. “I think that was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
It was a love of history and aviation that drew him to the air cadets. He said that his interest in historical battles led to a desire to join the army.
However, MacCuaig said he was also fascinated with flying and chose to join the Royal Canadian Air Cadets rather than the Royal Canadian Army Cadets because of that.
“I’m kind of a big history buff, so I read pretty much every book I could find about military history.”
MacCuaig said that joining a military organization like the cadets isn’t quite like what you see in the movies.
He said initially, he expected it to be like the scenes in movies with the drill sergeant shouting at troops.
Instead, he found the cadets a friendly and welcoming group.
It didn’t take MacCuaig long to fall in love with the cadets program. He said after learning the basics, he was pretty much hooked. He added that he enjoys the teamwork and leadership aspects of the program as well as, of course, how much you learn about planes.
Through cadets, MacCuaig has gained a number of benefits, he said. He added the program is great for building skills like leadership and teamwork as well as characteristics like self-confidence and self-respect.
Self-confidence is one skill that MacCuaig has benefitted from a lot. He said that before cadets he was very quiet and nervous.
“I used to be too scared to go up and ask for extra ketchup at McDonald’s,” said MacCuaig. “I was one of those quiet and timid people.”
He said that every cadet finds different aspects of the program enjoyable for different reasons.
Personally, he enjoys drill exercises and even the classes on how aircraft work. He added there is a great work-play balance to the program and lots of activities like survival and marksmanship training as well as extracurricular aspects like band.
Regardless of what cadets find interesting about the program though, MacCuaig said if they want to get any kind of enjoyment or accomplishment from it, they have to be willing to put in the effort.
“The more you put into the cadet program, the more you are going to get out of it,” said MacCuaig.
“You can’t just show up and not put any effort into the classes and expect it to change. You have to put effort in. If there is stuff on the weekends, show up for that. But it really is a rewarding program.”
MacCuaig said it is difficult to single out any one thing as a ‘favourite’ aspect of the program, because he enjoys the program as a whole. He said the amount that he has learned through the cadet program has been invaluable to him.
In the past year, he has been instructing the program as well as participating in it. He said that through instructing, he has grown the most as a cadet.
As he is 18 years old, MacCuaig will ‘age out’ of the air cadet program in the next year. He said he has already reached the goal he set out for himself when he first joined the program by reaching the rank of fl ight sergeant before aging out.
His new goal is to earn one more promotion and age out as a warrant officer second class.
While MacCuaig might be too old for the program in a year, it won’t be an end to his path in such organizations.
He said he is looking into a career in the military and is currently talking to a recruiter in Edmonton.