When Joshua D’Acierno first came across Papakura Cadet Force, he was 12 years old lacking in confidence. “In all honesty, I wasn’t the best kid, I had problems with discipline and needed more confidence.”
Six years down the track, he is now referred to as Warrant Officer classtwo, Joshua D’Acierno and he feels very fortunate that his friends introduced him to a future that would lead to possibly joining the police force in the near future. “At the beginning, I didn’t really like it that much but as I got into it, I began to look forward to every week and soon found that I had leadership abilities that I wasn’t even aware of.”
Sergeant Milly Reid agrees that the cadet force has changed her life in a positive way and she thanks her mother and family for pushing her to join four years ago. “I’ve always been very shy and not that confident but when I am in the cadets I find that my confidence increases and I feel empowered to do more. While I initially wanted to join the army, I’ve decided to possibly look into becoming a flight attendant thanks to this experience.”
For Staff Sergeant, Zachary Parks, the promotional courses that are included in cadets have really pushed him to work towards a future in the defence force. “I wasn’t a very confident cadet at the beginning, but I definitely feel that the senior non-commissioned officers helped me to find my confidence and really work hard towards being a top cadet,” he says.
The three local cadets are part of a larger group enthused by Commanding Officer John Bones who moved from the United Kingdom and received citizenship in New Zealand six years ago. Formerly in the Royal Navy, Bones knew that he wanted to utilise his experience towards making a difference for the youth in New Zealand.
He has found that some of the cadets have struggled to achieve set standards at school but thrive on the military framework and often find that they have skill sets they weren’t even aware of. “They often learn they can achieve anything they want and receive great memories that last them a lifetime,” he says.
Each of the cadets learn four core values: Courage – Confronting challenges, both physical and moral, to overcome any adversity; Commitment – Being reliable and loyally serving and supporting the NZCF, local communities and New Zealand; Comradeship - Looking out for each other, having respect for all, and championing the benefits of friendship, teamwork and diversity; Integrity – Having self discipline and always being honest, trustworthy and responsible.
“As long as they can exhibit these four core values throughout their lifetime, we believe they are set to achieve and contribute to the country in a positive way,” says Bones.
“This is one vehicle where they can be the best they can be and for people who like the military style environment, this works the best for them.”
He believes part of the secret behind the cadet force’s success is the fact that each of the cadets are expected to wear a uniform and aspire to meet the standards of junior and senior NCO’s who have gone before them. “They are enrolled in a four-year training programme and go away to competitions every year. They get to learn a wide variety of skills from navigation to first aid and knot tying.”
They cadets also get to travel overseas in exchange programmes from as far afield as the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and closer to home in Australia. “A lot of these activities will build new friendships outside of the cadets school groups, which will last for a lifetime.”
Beginning at the age of 13, through to 18, the cadet forces is jointly funded by the chief of defence force and four nationally recognised civilian support organisations. While it is aimed at young people, there is also a chance for parents to become involved and train to become officers. “A lot of our cadets’ parents have volunteered and joined in, which is great to see as it develops the confidence of the family as a whole,” says Bones.
The cadets have had long history in NZ with the first unit held at Dunedin High School (now Otago Boys High School) in 1864. During 1902 and 1910, there was a focus on having drills in schools for fitness and wellbeing, however it was disbanded in 1910. While the three cadets interviewed believed that cadets were a great option for schools to offer, none of them felt that it was something that should be given as a compulsory subject. “Not everyone thrives in a military framework, it’s not for everyone but can be great for those of us who enjoy it,” says D’Acierno. As a warrant officer, with a bright future ahead of him in the police force, it’s certain that cadets were the right choice for him.
To find out more about joining the Papakura cadet force, visit www.cadetforces.org.nz, or check out their Facebook page.