Air cadets attending summer camp near Penhold got a rare treat last week when members of the Canadian Forces (CF) CF-18 Demonstration Team stopped by for a visit.
Officials had also planned to have the CF-18 demonstration aircraft touch down at Red Deer Regional Airport so the cadets could meet pilot Capt. Erick O’Connor but low cloud cover at the airport near Springbrook meant the aircraft remained grounded at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake.
Master Cpl. Colin Dickie, a 27-year veteran of the CF, a former air cadet, and the team’s crew chief, said the weather simply wouldn’t cooperate.
“The pilot needed 2,100 feet clear air above the ground to land and we’re looking at about 1,200 right now,” Dickie said as he enjoyed lunch with the cadets in the Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre’s mess hall on July 13. “He’s way below his minimum to come in so he’s not going to be able to come in today.”
The trip was a bit of a homecoming for Dickie, who was born in Winnipeg but moved to Calgary in 1974. Growing up, he had attended air cadet summer camps in Penhold in the late 1970s and early 1980s before joining the CF as an infantry soldier in 1984.
Dickie and team members Capt. Holly Brown, Master Cpl. Jannick Vincent, Cpl. Tim Brown and Cpl. Frank Cyr ate lunch with the cadets and answered questions about basic training, their job descriptions and life in the military.
With the team scheduled to appear in Airdrie on July 16-17, the trip to the centre made sense, Dickie explained.
“Last year we stayed out of the limelight as we normally do,” he said, noting that many of the cadets will go on to become the future of the Canadian military. “All the bad things that go on, (the cadets are) getting away from that.”
Nick Zarft, a 17-year-old cadet from St. Albert who received his glider pilot’s license at the centre last summer, said meeting the ground crew was a great experience.
“They’re definitely really cool guys,” Zarft said. “We were just trading stories about some of the stuff we’ve done.”
Sub Lt. Jessica Cameron, the centre’s public affairs officer, said about 900 cadets from all across Canada are currently at the centre. By the time the camps are done later this summer, more than 1,000 cadets will have passed through the base. Even with the cancellation of the planned flight, Cameron said the cadets were excited to have the opportunity to sit down with the ground team.
“It’s just something different. It sort of breaks up their day,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to see (the team) some other time this summer.”
This year’s aircraft, which features a red paint scheme and a yellow “support our troops” ribbon wrapping around the cockpit and trailing down the aircraft’s spine, is dedicated to the sacrifice military families make everyday, Dickie said. Images of operational life in the armed forces and military families are painted on both of the aircraft’s tails.
“If I deploy I go and I do a hard job and I work whatever hours I have to work,” said Dickie, a member of 409 Sqd. in Cold Lake. “But the people back home live it, work it, 24 hours a day. A lot of time it’s on their own with, on average, two small kids. They put up with a whole lot more crap sometimes than what we have to put up with.”