Thursday April 17, 2014

Cuts leave cadets out in the cold

Military budget cuts are leaving Canada's cadets out in the cold, with a freeze on the purchase of parkas just as winter kicks in.

A $2-million chop to the $13-million cadet program budget led to parkas being the first kit item to be banned.

Cadets are being told to acquire their own parkas as well as their own gym shorts, T-shirts and other workout clothing.

"Regrettably, you will have to wear your personal parka over your uniform if the weather conditions warrant it," says a Dec. 13 order from Col. Conrad Namiesniowski, director for cadets and junior rangers.

"I also urge all cadets to dig into their closets for uniforms that they no longer wear and to seek out those uniform pieces that friends no longer with the program may have."

Wayne Corbin, Kamloops 2305 Army Cadet Corps supply officer, isn't overly concerned, saying it's a shared duty to help the Harper government slay the federal deficit by 2015.

"Everybody's got to take their piece of the cut," he said. "I got word that I can't order this and I can't order that. And I thought, 'OK, well we'll find a way around it somehow.'"

Thankfully, said Corbin, the 45 Kamloops army cadets can use one of 60 field training parkas the group has stored away.

The Kamloops air and sea cadet corps could not be reached by press time so it's unclear whether their 70 youths are similarly covered.

Namiesniowski's request to recycle uniforms is actually the norm in Kamloops, said Corbin. Cadets' parents sign a contract promising to return reusable uniform items when the child leaves the program.

The problem is that promise isn't always upheld.

"That's what gets you upset the most," Corbin said. "You end up ordering new stuff . . . just using all this money. That would save a fortune."

And since the program is free for all children, organizers will not charge for uniforms or even ask for a deposit since that could be prohibitive, said Corbin.

He added that the national cuts are only the beginning of changes yet to come due to budgetary restrictions.

"There's lots of cuts that we're going to be going through the next couple of years in shooting programs and biathlon programs, lots of national programs where army, air and sea cadets get together once a year somewhere in Canada," he said.

The Canadian Forces have been undergoing a wrenching period of cuts big and small, including to equipment.

Last week, the chief of defence staff announced the army would not proceed with a long-planned purchase of armoured vehicles, saving $2 billion.

Among other measures to save dollars - trucks and other vehicles in the existing fleets have been mothballed, potted plants have been banned at headquarters, and the army is doing more virtual training by computer, reducing use of ammunition.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson announced Oct. 2 that the cadet program was undergoing a "five-year renewal" that will boost the numbers to 70,000 and increase resources.

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