ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Several leading military men and women from the Caribbean, currently in Antigua & Barbuda for the annual Caribbean Cadet Commandants conference, are urging parents and school principals to support Caricom Cadet Forces as part of the region’s crime fighting efforts.
Newly installed conference chairman Colonel Glyne Dunnah of the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force spoke of the benefits young people derive from enrolling in the Cadet Corps.
“We’ve seen it times over that cadets function above and beyond the ordinary citizen who has not been exposed to that kind of military type training. Parents should support the Cadet Corps as much as possible, and in whatever way because that would assist in addressing the issue of crime among the youth. We are there to train them and make the country better,” he said.
The commanding officer of the local Cadet Force said few, if any, youths who have passed through the system have had brushes with the law. He attributed the success to the fact they are targeted at an early age and taught to respect themselves and others and to value and respect life and property.
Colonel Dunnah also called on schools to lend greater support to the programme.
“In as much as there are certain restrictions, our focus is to ensure youths have an avenue where they can learn something and become very disciplined and to be kept out of trouble. So, principals, come on board with us, partner with us.
“From the time your students enter secondary school, work on getting them interested in the cadet corps and it’ll help address some of your problems,” he noted.
Antigua & Barbuda’s Cadet Corp currently has over 250 members, but dozens more are expected to join during the new academic year beginning in September. The programme caters to secondary school students 12 to 18 years old.
“Even if we don’t have enough uniforms immediately, we are encouraging parents to give their children a pair of jeans and a polo shirt to come along,” Colonel Dunnah said.
Training is conducted on the T N Kirnon School grounds every Wednesday from 4 pm to 6 pm and on Saturdays from 7 am to noon.
The young people are taught community service, etiquette, leadership, social ethics and music, among others, during the three levels of the programme.
They are also exposed to a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programme, play in the Cadet Corp’s marching band, and participate in national ceremonial parades.
On completing each level, cadets receive a certificate that outlines the programmes he/she had been exposed to.
During the conference, which opened on Wednesday, military officers from Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, St Vincent & the Grenadines, St Lucia and Dominica will be reviewing and setting policies with regards to training programmes, camps, and workshops for the young recruits.
Cadets from across the region would also receive commendation and medals during the meeting, which ends July 21.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)