About the Cadet Summer Training Centre

While a variety of youth programs for boys with an emphasis on aviation-related topics had begun in the mid-1930s, the Royal Canadian Air Cadets as a national movement was conceived in 1940. It came into formal existence in 1941 as a supplement to the Second World War’s British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). The aim of the organization then was to train and familiarize young men with all aspects of military life, exposing them to the fundamentals of air and ground crew training in order to prepare them for joining the wartime Royal Canadian Air Force. Now, 70 years later, the Air Cadet Organization counts over 23,000 young Canadian men and women aged between 12-19, and focuses primarily on developing the qualities of citizenship and leadership, promoting physical fitness, and stimulating an interest in Canada’s air force and general aviation in Canada.

Air Cadet Summer training in Ontario was first formally conducted in Aylmer in the 1950’s, at the present site of the Ontario Police College, then an airfield from the BCATP days. At that time, a group of cadets drawn from multiple squadrons within a common geographic area were transported to a temporary camp set up by the RCAF. Training was led by officers from the squadrons, with support supplied by the host RCAF station and some augmentees. This format remained largely unchanged, with varying levels of support and engagement by the RCAF Station staff, through to the mid-sixties. During this period, air cadet summer training moved to RCAF Station Clinton for a few years before moving in 1960 to its present home at the southwest corner of (then) RCAF Station Trenton. Originally established as Station Trenton Summer Camp, then CFB Trenton Summer Camp, the name changed to Trenton Air Cadet Camp (TACC) in 1974, and in 1996 all cadet camps were re-designated as Cadet Summer Training Centres (CSTCs).

One constant through all the change has been the ‘Bell’. First used at Aylmer, the bell played a central role: it was hung prominently outside the headquarters tent, and its loud ring sounded for emergencies, reveille, muster parades, and as an hourly chime. Its highly polished state was maintained by small parties of dedicated cadets whose various minor misdeeds ‘volunteered’ them for this duty. The bell followed air cadet training to Clinton and eventually Trenton, and has always remained a focal point of the training centre. Pranksters would attempt the not so trivial challenge of removing the weighty item, and it has been recovered from a variety of locations over the years. While its role is now purely symbolic and ceremonial, it has remained a constant feature in a training centre that has seen significant change from its early days. The bell has been depicted in numerous unofficial unit badges, and is closely linked to the unit’s identity.

In the early years, everything was under canvas, with row upon row of smaller tents housing 8-12 boys, larger classroom tents, and a long mess and kitchen tent. Wooden plank walkways connected the facilities, and roadways were designated with rows of white-painted stones. When it was hot, the tent walls were rolled up, and at dusk, with the first mosquito bite, they were promptly rolled down again! Meals were served from hay boxes brought down from the main kitchen. Conditions improved with the pouring of concrete pads for the tents, and with seasonal plumbing installed for shower tents.

Through the mid sixties, responsibility for training shifted from squadron staff to a dedicated camp staff made up of a few permanent members, Regular Force and Reserve augmentees in the summer, and a significant number of the Reserve officers from the cadet squadron staffs who would dedicated a full seven weeks to summer training. In 1968, with unification, the Cadet Instructor List was created as a subcomponent of the Reserve Force, and the officers from this list became the primary source of staff. Course Training Standards were set nationally by the Directorate of Cadets, and each training centre produced its own Training Plans based on facility access and availability of resources in the local area. While specific course names and content have changed over time, training at Trenton has been fairly consisted with a focus on Basic Cadet Training, Leadership and Instructional Technique, Aircrew Survival, Fitness, aviation related subjects and air traffic control. While the gliding school is a separate establishment from the training centre, for many summers, the glider cadets and staff receive rations and quarters within the confines of the Training Centre’s operations.

The year 1975 saw the introduction of ‘girl cadets’ and the construction of the first hard shelters. These were long barracks accommodating 70-80 cadets each. While the two female barracks were connected by a washroom facility, the male cadets continued to use the ablution tents. By 1980, all accommodation and washrooms were within hard shelters and only the canteen, chapel, storage, intake reception area, and a few classrooms remained under canvas; these have all now been incorporated into permanent or semi-permanent structures. TACSTC was temporarily relocated to Belleville’s Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in 1999 when the training centre facilities were repurposed by the Department of National Defence to be used as a reception centre for Kosovo refugees.

In 1996, the Directorate of Cadets initiated a ‘stabilization project’ for all air cadet summer training, whereby the responsibility for Training Plan development was centralized at the Directorate. This resulted in more consistent training delivery across all centres and also allowed for a more comprehensive review of training. A Cadet Program Update is currently being phased in for all three elements, and 2012 will see the fourth year summer courses updated. While the courses retain similar focus, they have been reworked to remain current, relevant, age appropriate, and more hands-on. Also, similar courses involving content common to all three elements now share a common standard and plan.

In 2010 TACSTC celebrated 50 years, and was granted freedom of the City of Quinte West.