By Lindsey Turnbull
Playing an important role in helping to shape Cayman’s youth for the better, the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps has begun celebrating 20 years of operation in the Cayman Islands, beginning with a church service which happened at the start of the month. Commandant Lt. Col. Errol Brathwaite spoke with Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis about how the Cadet Corps has evolved over the 20 years and the tremendous good it has achieved so far.
The Cayman Islands Cadet Corps commenced 20 years ago, beginning as part of a cadet movement across not only the region but across the globe, the Lt. Col explained. The first Cadet Corps started in 1904 in the region, evolving from its earliest beginning in the 1800s in the UK. A national voluntary youth organisation. Currently the Cadet Corps falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs and is sponsored by the Cayman Islands Government.
“The organisation was developed to build strength of character among our young people,” Lt. Col. Brathwaite advised. “We want to augment what has been done in the schools and in the homes by offering them interesting, exciting and challenging activities that keeps their minds occupied, keep them physically fit, and keep them engaged with their peers, particularly at times where parents are at work in the afternoon and need some extra time before they pick them up, the Cadet Corps is the ideal opportunity through which good supervision and mentorship can make a difference.”
Lt. Col. Brathwaite said the Cadet Corps has had significant positive impact on youth during the 20 years it has been in operation in Cayman.
“We’ve seen significant benefits in a number of individuals who have passed through the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps and who’ve graduated into some of the uniform services, namely the RCIPS and the CI Coast Guard. We’ve seen people go into HMCI, into 911. Some youngsters after leaving the CICC have pursued studies overseas to become attorneys-at-law, engineers and across a wide spectrum of disciplines, both in the uniformed services and outside the uniformed services.”
In essence, the Cadet Corps has helped prepare young people for adulthood, with youngsters able to join once they start secondary school at 11 to 17 years old.
The Cadet Corps is split into different detachments or companies. The Infantry detachments use training based upon the Army Cadet Force training programme from the UK and is the syllabus the Cadets’ use across the region. With a focus on drills, they are able to develop teamwork and team spirit, developing practical skills, such as using a map and compass, as well as adventurous training, building shelters and cooking, along with target shooting skills (with an emphasis on safety and competition shooting).
“In the event there is an emergency or disaster Cadets already have the skills to survive in arduous conditions,” Lt. Col. Brathwaite advised.
The Marine detachment teaches cadets about naval traditions and customs, boat handling, morse code, etc. Those skills are developing youngsters who are interested in working in maritime areas, working with the Coast Guard or operating their own vessel, so they understand laws of the ocean, he advised.
The acting Commandant also noted that in addition to the Band and Marine detachments, there are Cadet Detachments at John Gray High School, Clifton Hunter High School, Triple C School and Layman E. Scott High School (Brac). In addition, there are students from Cayman Academy, St. Ignatius Catholic School, Lighthouse School Calvary Baptist Christian Academy, Wesleyan Christian Academy and George Town Primary who are members of the Cadet programme and assigned to one of the existing detachments.
Celebrating in style
A number of key activities have been planned to ensure the 20th anniversary milestone is suitably recognised. Having held a special church service last Sunday to kick start events, they are looking to the remainder of May to begin a community project, participating in tree planting efforts across the Islands. In June, they will move into beginning Project 20:20, with 20 Cadets walking 20 dogs, a project that may continue in the future once they have ascertained whether this can be facilitated from time to time.
In July they will host their annual camp, under the theme: “The Cayman Cadet, 20 Years of Youth Development: Utilising the Past to Fortify the Future,” but this year it will not be a normal training routine, instead, it will be the culmination of activities and competitions between the different companies within the CICC, including activities such as drill, orienteering, triathlon, all in all a wide range of activities to test the standards attained by the cadets.
The company that emerges the winners will earn important bragging rights.
“This is very important to ensure that the youngsters keep coming,” Lt. Col. Brathwaite advised.
In August and September, they are looking at holding open days and recruitment drives for cadets and also volunteers. Good supervision was essential, he said, as they currently had 48 volunteers, but were looking to recruit more.
“With a full time staff of only five supervising over 200 cadets, the volunteers play a significant supporting role,” the acting Commandant advised.
A strategic recruitment campaign was developing whereby they were going into schools at the start of the academic year, ensuring that young people were fully abreast of what the Cadet Corps is all about. Thus far this approach was working, as Lt. Col. Brathwaite confirmed:
“We’ve had a fairly good response, particularly over the past two or three years, we’ve seen our numbers grow,” he said. “The perception that had been held over the years that the Cadet Corps was only for bad children was one of the biggest myths not only here but across the globe and one which we have to demystify.”
Looking ahead, the Cadet Corps is working on a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) starting with the RCIPS and the CI Coast Guard, which will identify some individuals who want to transition from cadets into those organisations, so in their final year as cadets they are attached with them, enabling them to have a head start in training, the acting Commandant said. In this way, the youngsters are already a good many steps ahead in their careers and their lives.
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