Despite the stigma surrounding many regimented roles — whether it be policing or the military — women are taking on leadership roles at 676 Kittyhawk Air Cadet Squadron.
Parkland Secondary School student Emma Van Wyk is the 676 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron’s Deputy Commander, holding the second highest cadet position. She represents the under 10 per cent of women at the Squadron.
Van Wyk joined cadets in 2011, immersing herself in many activities of the squadron: joining the Biathlon team; the simulated flight program; CASC (Computer Aided Simulation Centre), among other things.
“Almost everything that the squadron’s offered I’ve done a little bit of. It’s always been interesting to me to try to get into as many different things as possible,” she told the PNR at the Squadron’s CO (Commanding Officer’s) Parade last week.
Van Wyk hopes to addend the University of Victoria after she graduates to study biomedical engineering.
Being a woman in the cadets, she said, is different, especially in the last five years, as she’ said she’s unaware of any female being in the second highest position of the squadron. When she first joined, there was only one other young woman in the top position.
“There hasn’t been a female there for a really long time and I think it’s really good for the younger cadets to see that there’s people that you can look up to. There’s a lot of new female cadets so it’s really great for them to see,” she said.
Of the Squadron’s 80- plus cadets who attend Thursday training nights, Van Wyk says there are about seven to 10 females.
When it comes to opportunities, Van Wyk said it’s about growing your leadership and showing the community that women can do everything a man can do.
“As a woman leader, it’s definitely stressful and it does show you that not everything you can do is easy, but if you put your mind to things you can really do whatever you want.”
She said she wouldn’t say there’s so much a stigma now, as women are being offered a lot more opportunities.
“I’ve seen in the U.S. that there’s a couple women joining the marines and the more elite forces of their military, so I believe that it is starting to equal out.”
In her position Van Wyk calls a couple of commands on parade, and if the squadron commander isn’t there, she takes over his position, which involves a lot more commands.
During her tenure on the cadets’ Survival Instructor course, she was awarded the ANAVETS Cadet Medal of Merit for being top cadet of the course.
Turning 18 in just over a month, Van Wyk has one more year left and will age out of cadets at 19.
Another female cadet, who aged out just over a week ago, is Molly Andrews.
Andrews ended her time with the Squadron holding the rank of Warrant Officer Second Class.
She joined the Squadron as a shy 14 year-old, but that didn’t stop her from joining the cadet band as a percussionist and later overseeing the command of the Cadet Band.
“My officers say they think that I didn’t speak at all in the first year,” said Andrews.
By 2016, she was the recipient of the Top Flight Award, which is given to the leader of a smaller flight of cadets who were the most exemplary in all disciplines. Being the only female in her level as well, Andrews thought she had to prove herself to the boys.
“I wanted to be better than the boys,” she said with a laugh. “So I was always trying to be on my best behaviour during drill or in the classroom or just general cadet events.”
She said she’s seen the boys change and become different in a good way during her time in cadets.
“I see the boys that I’ve joined with now that are in their late teens now … they are very different people. They pay attention a lot more,” she said.
She said when it comes to women in the military, there is a difference in behaviour.
“We find that the girls are a lot more well behaved, especially in cadets than the boys,” she said, adding that might be because there are fewer numbers of women in the military.
Because of that, however, she said they get more opportunities.
Andrews is currently studying in the criminal justice program at Camosun College, and hopes to be in the RCMP.
For details about joining the Air Cadets call 250-656-4423 or visit www.676kittyhaw.com.