The Western Bay of Plenty Cadet Unit, New Zealand's largest Cadet Corps unit, is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, and Second Lieutenant Dave Northcott says they're on the hunt for new members.
The unit, commanded by Major Eli Crawshaw, is the local branch of the New Zealand Cadet Corps, which represents the army wing of the New Zealand Cadet Forces.
Other local units include No. 16 Squadron of the Air Training Corps, and Training Ship Chatham of the Sea Cadet Corps.
“We're not actually part of the defence force, but we're governed by them and receive support,” says Dave.
“At the moment we have around 70 cadets, but we're looking to grow that number this year.”
He says cadets generally begin their training at 12 or 13 years old, and continue up until the age of 19. After that, there's opportunities to train to become an officer and take on a leadership role within the corps.
“We meet on a Thursday evening at the army hall during the school term. We learn foot drill, bush craft, navigation, radio procedures, first aid, physical training and leadership/teamwork skills.”
There are also opportunities to go on local and national camps where these skills are put into practice, says Dave.
It's not just for boys, either, with around a fifth of the unit's members made up of girls.
The unit is planning to march through the city in May to celebrate 20 years in the Western Bay of Plenty.
For those interested in finding out more, Dave says teens should come along with their parent or guardian on a Thursday night at 6pm for an hour-long presentation on what to expect.
History of the New Zealand Cadet Forces
The first unit raised was at Dunedin High School (now Otago Boys High School) in 1864, making it the oldest youth service organisation in New Zealand. Around 1870 there were several secondary school units in existence, among those being Nelson College, Christ's College, Wellington College and Auckland Grammar School. As well at schools, some open Defence Cadet Units existed.
In 1929 the first Sea Cadets unit was formed in Christchurch, while in 1941 the Air Training Corps was founded to train potential recruits for the RNZAF.