For pure adventure, it’s hard to beat Cadets. What other extracurricular activity combines sport, camping, bivouacking, tracking, patrolling, navigating, abseiling, bushcraft and tactical camouflage with practical military skills such as casualty evacuation, radio communications, first aid, field engineering and ceremonial drill and parade routines? As after-school activities go, cadet training is “extreme”.
But more than fun and excitement, cadets acquire a fundamental skill set that helps them to mature into self-confident, responsible and resourceful young adults. This is why cadet units are a central aspect of student life at many independent schools.
Trinity Grammar School, in Sydney’s Inner West, places a very high value on its cadet program making it compulsory for all students in years 8 and 9. While no longer mandatory from year 10 onward, students are encouraged to stick with the program to bolster their leadership skills. “Trinity has found that those boys who continue beyond the compulsory two-year cadet window are amongst the best leaders that the school produces,” it says.
The purpose of cadet training is to cultivate competence and self-sufficiency in young people through the acquisition of survival and organisational skills. The Australian Defence Force supports Army, Navy and Air Force Cadets but cadets are not part of the military and there is no expectation that cadets will join the Defence Force.
Cadets maintain the customs, traditions and values of the armed forces but the emphasis is on personal development. The Cadet Force seeks to “empower youths to achieve their potential” by promoting courage, initiative and teamwork.
As such, participation in cadets is an integral part of a well-rounded education Trinity says, equipping boys with essential life skills such as self-reliance, managing pressure, surmounting challenges, team building, self-discipline, responsibility and leadership.
The utility of cadet training is far-reaching and widely applicable, the schools says. Cadets “learn to face challenges, overcome them, and recognise that challenge provides an opportunity for personal growth.”
Drill and parading teach the boys the importance of “dedication, commitment and precision” while field training offers senior cadets a rare opportunity to take “responsibility for their direct peers or younger students for extended periods,” says Trinity. Meeting the physical, emotional and nutritional needs of 20 or more boys for a week-long camp is immensely demanding for anyone, let alone a teenager. “The skills of leadership a boy learns in this context are among the most valuable gained through Cadets,” says the school.
Former school army cadet Governor-General Peter Cosgrove wholeheartedly agrees. Addressing the Australian Air League cadets in 2014, he highlighted the professional and personal benefits of cadet training.
“The skills you’re developing: leadership, navigation, radio, radar, meteorology, electronics and semaphore are going to serve you well in whatever career path you choose in the future,” he said.
“For 80 years, the league has instilled important ideals in young Australians; the importance of teamwork, ingenuity and resourcefulness, and above all being an engaged, giving and selfless citizen.”
His comments are supported by research. The Societal Impact of Cadet Forces, a 2010 British study involving more than 10,000 cadets, volunteer cadet leaders, and host school principals found that “cadets tend to have high levels of respect for authority and others and high levels of self-esteem. They are likely to be committed citizens and have heightened aspirations.”
The authors concluded that “membership of a cadet force confers numerous short, medium and long-term benefits both on the cadets themselves and also on society generally.”
While anyone can be a cadet, there is one stipulation, says Dr Heath De Lany, Trinity’s Officer Commanding of Cadets.
“It does not relate to what class you are in or what sporting team you play with as these do not measure worth or quality of character,” he says. “The prerequisite required is the desire to be a part of something worthwhile and beneficial to your future.”
With so much to offer, Cadets is truly an extremely rewarding experience.
Five life skills gained through army cadets – Trinity Grammar School blog, November 4, 2016
Trinity Grammar School Army Cadet Unit information booklet
Australian Army Cadets website
Australian Air League Cadets parade for Governor General – Matthew Raggatt, Sydney Morning Herald, October 4, 2014
The Societal Impact of Cadet Forces – Graham Moon, University of Southampton, and Liz Twigg and Jo Horwood, University of Portsmouth, November 2010