A youth organisation with a military flavour is teaching high school-aged students life skills and discipline.
The Number 48 Squadron District of Stratford Air Training Corps (ATC) unit is the only New Zealand Cadet Forces Unit in Central and South Taranaki and it is looking for more cadets and officers for when it reopens after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Temporary unit commander Major Helen Parr oversees the cadets during their weekly parade nights, community service activities and any other activities.
"We run a four-year training programme. In the first year, the cadets learn basic skills and in the year following, they expand their knowledge of the skills."
Activities include drill, where cadets march at different events such as Anzac Day and as part of a parade.
"We also do drill with weapons that cannot be fired."
She says the cadets learn weapon training within a safe, controlled environment.
"They learn about a weapon, the safety rules associated with firearms, how to fire a weapon and hold competitive shoots."
The cadets also learn general service knowledge of the New Zealand Defence Force and Cadet Force knowledge.
"They learn about military establishments, ranks and specific information about the Cadet Force. We also undertake bushcraft, first aid, navigation and survival skills work in the outdoors and as members of a ATC unit have the opportunity to complete power flying and gliding locally and at a national level."
New Zealand Cadet Forces includes Sea, Army and Air Cadets. Each wears the same uniform as their parent service which, for Stratford, is the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Parr says the Stratford ATC opens up opportunities for the cadets.
"They have the opportunity to go to courses such as JNCO, the junior non-commissioned officer course, and SNCO, the senior non-commissioned officer course."
Stratford ATC Squadron Warrant Officer Isaac Burroughs,18, attended both of the courses.
Warrant officer is the highest rank a cadet can achieve.
"The courses allow you to move to higher ranks," he says. "They are both leadership courses. At JNCO you learn discipline, how to teach drill lesson and how to instruct a group. At SNCO you learn how to teach a theoretical lessons and how to conduct a parade.
Burroughs has been a member of the cadet forces for five years. He says he liked the opportunities offered, from spending time on New Zealand Defence Force bases doing courses or competing.
"You also meet people all over New Zealand and make life-long skills. I have learned a lot of things that will help me later in life such as discipline, survival skills and working as a team."
Parr says without the help of the unit support committee, made of parents, members of the community and supporters, the unit wouldn't be running.
"They fundraise for our unit so we can do different activities."
The squadron is looking for more cadets and officers to join once the alert levels are lowered. To join, a cadet has to be 13-18 years old.
"Once the unit is reopen we will be contacting the cadets and those interested on when we restart."
The unit meets every Tuesday night within the school term from 7-9pm.
■ For more information, or expressions of interest contact Helen Parr email@example.com or Flying Officer Sharon Clarke firstname.lastname@example.org