Twenty cadets from Rimbey, Ponoka and Lacombe, along with two officers, spent their spring break in San Diego, Calif., touring American military bases, museums, an aircraft carrier, the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld among other things.
Sponsored by the Ponoka Air Cadet Society, 65 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadets funded the five-day trip at no cost to the cadets or their parents. Cadets were taken to HSM-41 Seahawks, a US military helicopter base in Coronado where they got up close and personal with a Sea Hawk helicopter. Cadets were allowed to sit in, touch and play with the controls of the aircraft and were then taken to a flight simulator where they were given the opportunity to practice their landing skill on an aircraft carrier. On the way out of the base, as a final thrill, cadets saw Air Force One, which had landed while they were there.
Ponoka cadets were also introduced to a large amount of aviation history at the San Diego Air and Space Museum where they saw famous planes such as the F-18s the Blue Angels fly, a SR-71 Blackbird, which is the fastest jet plane in the world, and the Spirit of St. Louis.
Cadets were also thrilled to see Shamu the killer whale at Sea World perform his jumps and dives while splashing the audience with huge swings of his tail. There were black and white Commerson’s dolphins, rays that could be touched and a “splash-mountain” type roller coaster ride.
A special highlight for air cadets was visiting the USS Midway, a permanently docked aircraft carrier, built in 1945 and taken out of service shortly after the Gulf War. Cadets were invited aboard to view all aspects of the ship’s operations, from the hangar, to the flight deck where aircraft are launched. Pictures were taken of cadets in front of the aircraft representing their flight name at the home squadron, “Tomcat” and “Phantom.”
A harbour tour showed the cadets two other aircraft still in service but in port, the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Regan, as well as various other US navy, marine and coast guard ships.
The San Diego Zoo provided a flare for exotic animals and sights not commonly seen by most people. A polar bear was seen wandering around along with silverback gorillas, hippopotamus and tigers.
A trip to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps revealed a shark-feeding, a close-up encounter with moray eels, the opportunity to touch and feel live starfish and sighting sea-horses.
The final parts of the tour involved a visit to the Flying Leatherneck Museum on the Miramar Marine Base, the location where the movie “Top Gun” was staged. At the museum cadets were allowed to wear flight helmets and vests and take up-close photos with various US aircraft that are not seen in Canada, such as the Cobra helicopter and the Harrier Jump-Jet.
Finally, cadets were allowed to splash around in the ocean under close supervision at a beach in California. For those who didn’t enjoy the water there were amusement park rides and various spinning devices that seemed to be designed to test the limit of human stomach control (teacup rides and gravitron-type rides) at Belmont Park.
Cadets were selected to go on this tour by a points system, choosing those who attend most events held by the unit and were available to travel. Cadets then “spend” their points to rotate through deserving people and make the next opportunity available to others.
65 Squadron is fundraising to build a new cadet hall with adequate space to perform drill movements and teach classes and ensure the training plan given to cadets on leadership, citizenship and physical fitness is effective and enjoyable.
For more information on cadets or to support 65 Squadron, please contact Capt. Shane Kreil at 403-783-4181 (squadron phone) any Tuesday evening, or email Shane.Kreil@cadets.gc.ca Information about cadets can also be found at www.cadets.ca