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Inuit youth earns award as exemplary first-year Air Cadet.

Michel Paul seemed like any other reluctant 15-year-old boy when his mother, Helene Paul, suggested he join Air Cadets. Originally from Kuujjuaq, a remote community in northern Quebec, the Inuit youth moved to Cold Lake at the age of seven when his mother was posted to the base there. She had seen the value and discipline that could be gained from military training, and so she encouraged her only son to get involved.

He was intrigued after that first experience but resisted because he didn't want to cut his hair, said Ms. Paul. When she assured him that wouldn't be necessary, Michel signed on and officially became an Air Cadet.

A few short months later, Ms. Paul had good reason to be proud of her only son. At the Annual Ceremonial Review of the 664 Squadron Air Cadets in Cold Lake, U.S. Air Force Major Hardeman presented Michel with the Gerlinger/ Jamesen Award trophy for the most outstanding first-year cadet. The award is given only when a cadet demonstrates outstanding qualities.

From his first day with the squadron, Michel took to the training and exercises like a duck to water. "He joined at a bit of an older age, so he towers over the other kids, but he's a guy they look up to and respect," said Capt. Owen Andrusiak, commanding officer of the squadron. "He plays a leadership role and is willing to do it with no reservations, no attitude."

Cadets gives young people an opportunity to do things they wouldn't normally do, such as travel, attend survival camps and work toward a pilot's license. The Cold Lake squadron will be hosting a group of Army Cadets from Nova Scotia in the coming year, and Andrusiak hopes to see his Air Cadets participate in the exchange as well.

Michel was proud to be one of only eight Cold Lake cadets chosen to attend the Rocky Mountain Army Cadet National Summer Training Centre near Cochrane, where a major survival competition drew 300 air cadets from Alberta, Yukon and NWT. That was a highlight, he said. "It was a really big competition with a lot of other squadrons from all over (western Canada). We got to participate, and met a lot of new people."

The Cold Lake squadron also participated in a marksmanship day in Bonnyville, a familiarization flying day at the Cold Lake Regional Airport, a visit to the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton, and a weekend survival field training exercise where the whole squadron learned and practiced survival skills.

That was another high point for Michel. "I enjoyed survival camp. We made a tent out of logs, and did some hiking."

Ms. Paul has watched her son grow and change over the year. "He was surrounded by good instructors. It's like a family environment, so he had a lot of support. He can shine when he has encouragement."

Andrusiak said Michel was chosen for the Gerlinger/ Jamesen award, "because he exemplified what we are looking for in a good first-year cadet. His attendance is good and he's motivated to succeed. His dress, deportment and how he handled himself was fantastic."

Now starting Grade 11, Michel plans to go back for a second year with the 664 Air Cadets Squadron. Beyond that, he may look to a future working in animation, or he might follow in his mother's footsteps and spend some time in the military. Either way, it looks like the training and camaraderie of air cadets is helping to set the young man on the right track.

"I think he has come to see that with hard work there is a reward, and he has pride in accomplishing things," said Ms. Paul. "I think he's making an effort to achieve success."



Sweetgrass Writer
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Title Annotation:COLD LAKE; Michel Paul
Author:Arndt, Sandy
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Geographic Code:1CALB
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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