5 Questions with… Erica Angel
Erica came to Fort McMurray to work at Suncor Energy in 2003, fresh from studying Mining Engineering at Queen’s University; and pretty much the first thing she did was volunteer with the Air Cadets. Aptly named to work with the winged branch of the military youth program, Erica cheerfully gives some 20+ hours a week to these young leaders of tomorrow, testament indeed to her angelic side. She is currently the commanding officer of 868 YMM Rotary Northstar Royal Canadian Air Cadets, Fort McMurray. (Information about the group can be found on Facebook and their website.)
The obvious first question is, why the Air Cadets? It’s not a logical leap for a mining engineer.
I was in the Sea Cadets in Labrador City, my hometown. They meant so much to me growing up, I knew I wanted to be involved once I graduated from University. The Air Cadet Squadron in YMM was where I chose to be and I’ve enjoyed learning about the more airy aspects of the military as part of that.
You hold the rank of Captain. Is that a real commission?
Yes. We are part of the military and do the training required to be officers. Obviously all training is geared towards our field, in my case the Air Cadets, but the uniforms are real. We are in the reserve force of the Canadian Forces. So you don’t get to drive a CF-18 Hornet.
Not in my case, but some of our cadets have become trained glider pilots and are training to get their aviation pilot’s licenses. Some of the officers are actually pilots… and I sat in a CF-18 once, but that was as far as it went, so far.
This isn’t just you though, is it?
No, I have two sisters, one here who also volunteers with 868, and the other with the sea cadets back home. My parents were also community volunteers, I guess that’s where the service ethic comes from.
What is so special about the cadet program?
It’s aimed at teenagers. That’s an interesting time for everybody growing up. The Cadets teach them self-respect and respect for others, as well as discipline and teamwork. They learn a lot about service to the community as well as being contributing members of the community. The teachers always say they know which students are cadets because they are more disciplined and confident. They are more likely to show leadership skills as they have the self-confidence to do so, self-confidence learn from their time in 868.
Fine words to end the conversation. Working with teenagers and teaching them to care about others? Erica and the rest of the cadet volunteers in town are not merely angelic, they’re miracle workers.