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What is a Cadet?

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You may have heard of the term “cadet” before, especially concerning the youth cadet programs many military forces run as a skills development, community-building, and future recruiting tool. 

For instance, the “Royal Air Force Cadets” in the United Kingdom serves as a youth organization to train, educate and develop willing members of the program, teaching them vital practical lessons, disciplinary procedures, and diluted military drills with the interest of safety, confidence-building, and skills development. Numerous programs exist like this across multiple countries and branches of military organization.

However, the official term “cadet” also relates to a student, mainly within a martial, law enforcement, or even emergency medical program. As these fields of employment are highly specialized and open up the pathway to unique responsibilities and authority, cadets undergo strict training programs to learn the skills necessary for the trade. Most “adult” cadets are paid for the duration of their training.

In different countries, the term “cadet” can refer to several different distinctions of military trainee or recruit-in-waiting. In this post, we’ll go over some of those distinctions.

What does “cadet” mean in different military organizations or countries around the world?

Depending on your frame of reference, cadets can refer to several different training or student statuses.

For example, in the United States, “cadet” will refer to a full-time college student who has been accepted into the commissioned officer program and is training alongside their studies. This also applies to cadets enrolled in school programs such as the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). Again, it can also refer to youth-oriented development programs.

In the United Kingdom, the cadet forces are a unique educational program run by the Ministry of Defense, including the Sea Cadet Corps, Combined Cadet Force, Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Force, and Volunteer Cadet Forces. This program often leads young people to consider a full-time career in the armed forces and serves as a bonus on a recruit’s application.

In India, the National Cadet Corps is a national program designed to empower college students to learn military skills and to provide a pathway forward to a full-time military career. In Canada, the meaning differs a little, instead referring to unsworn police constables going through a police academy, or again voluntarily taking part in the youth cadets program – in the case serving as the oldest youth organization in the country’s history.

As you can see, a cadet can be many things depending on the nation they call home, but the term will almost always refer to a trainee, student, or recruit developing their skills for a position of authority. These programs tend to be very successful, and those who get involved, even voluntarily, tend to have fond memories of doing so.

What does the training program of an adult military cadet look like?

A cadet recruit’s training can differ depending on the organization they join and the specialism they’ve been accepted for. Most military training schedules are comprised of basic training, which every cadet must go through, and then a second training module where their technical or specialist lessons are taught.

For example, if a recruit joins the Intelligence specialism as an Analyst or Linguist, after basic training they may enroll in a ten-week confidential training program that looks at information gathering, field reporting, language-learning and other vital skills for that trade. In some countries, like Germany, a cadet refers to an officer-in-training, and this will require a longer variant of basic training which teaches leadership, officer skills, and a unique rank structure.

Reservist recruits in training are also known as cadets, as their basic training program is identical to the full-time regular recruits looking for a full-time position. This is because the military needs capable personnel able to function as expected no matter their employment status.

How do military cadet programs differ from other types of youth organizations, such as scouting or sports teams?

Military youth cadet programs may seem like a fun and active extra-curricular hobby, but they’re run with all the serious and essential standards of a standard military outfit, adjusted to accommodate the suitable involvement of young members. 

While sporting programs and volunteer groups will often focus on skills development in a general sense, military cadet programs do so for the distinct purpose of setting up a possible military career. They focus on discipline, mutual respect, and intensive personal standards that will be drilled into any recruit if they choose to undergo basic training. They also run capable leadership development and mentorship programs.

Military cadets are also expected to offer their reliable commitment to the program. These programs are optional to join, but once you do, you will be expected to attend all required gatherings, events, and away days, school and health permitting. This often involves after-school and weekend activities. 

This is to train the sense of duty and responsibility necessary for any future service personnel. Youth members tend to thrive in that environment and can learn vital skills as they grow into their adulthood, even if they choose not to pursue a military career. As such, youth cadet programs are often a fantastic pathway for at-risk or troubled youth that may require that sense of belonging and discipline they struggle to find elsewhere, but will be open to anyone able to meet the fitness requirements, and those of suitable age.

How can someone get involved in their country’s military cadet program?

This will differ depending on your location. However, certain tips remain universal.

First, research the different cadet programs available to you, their entry requirements such as age or qualifications, and their location to you. Then you can contract the program organizers to register your interest, gain more information, and begin your application. Note that this will require an in-person interview, and perhaps a base visit depending on where the cadet program is located.

As soon as you decide to apply, it’s good to work on your physical fitness and learn about military history and culture, as well as any other preparations your program leaders ask you to focus on.