The 65 Squadron Ponoka Royal Canadian Air Cadets’ 19th annual Dining in Night was an evening to celebrate the vast accomplishments of the squadron over the last year and served as an opportunity to give the cadets some live experience in military mess dinners.
“The purpose of the evening is to show the cadets, and their parents and families and friends, what a military mess dinner is all about,” said Cpt. Tracey Fiedler, commanding officer 65 Squadron Ponoka.
“It gives them an appreciation,” she added.
The event also brings the Air Cadets and military community together, as well as the community of Ponoka, to commemorate the cadets.
In the past year, the 65 Squadron gained a band. “It’s awesome,” said Fiedler.
The squadron’s range team took first at zones and is heading to provincials. The biathlon team also competed in zones. In the effective speaking program, two cadets attended zones. The drill team is winning competitions and squadron also boasts a fun event team.
“We’ve actually had some pretty neat things this year,” said Fiedler.
“Last year, we won top squadron so I hope that we continue that and win that again this year,” she added. “I’m very proud of all these kids, the staff, the parents, the support that we have at our squadron as a whole.”
Three cadets received their graduating pins at the dinner: WO2 Tyler Gaudet, FSgt Logan Newton and WO1 Kelly Fielder.
Royal Canadian Legion #66 Branch Ponoka president Sybil Evans also attended the dinner and had a few words of encouragement for the cadets. “It’s an honour to be associated with this squadron,” she said.
The squadron was also given two flight simulators last year, which helps ease the pressures of having to handle the 55 cadets in the program.
In attendance were many military personnel and aged out cadets. While it is not a requirement they attend the dinner, Fielder says they keep coming back to stay a part of the program.
“They want to be there. I think it shows excellent support in the program itself,” she explained.
Another aged out cadet in attendance was the squadron’s guest of honor for the evening, retired Lt. Col Tom Sand.
After leaving the program, Sand joined the Canadian Forces. In his year of services he has accumulated more than 6,000 patrol flight hours.
In his many roles and many great accomplishments, he has served as a deputy commanding officer, training squadron officer commander and staff officer. Sand has carried out his duties in the United States, Italy and Afghanistan.
“Usually we try to find someone who has some aviation background or some air cadet background,” said Fiedler. “So retired Lt. Col. Sand was an excellent choice.”
“I started out my career in cadets and it did me very well, I chose the Air Force,” said Sand. “And it will suit you very, very well for whatever you decide to do to.”
“It has done wonders for all the youth in Canada that have been involved,” he added.
Sand told the audience that by age 14, he knew where he wanted to go in life and the Air Cadets got him there. He added the lessons he learned in the program also helped him through the second transition of his life when he retired from the Air Force.
“What it taught me . . . was the possibilities. You’re only limited by your imagination,” said Sand.