A young Alexandra local has just returned from a highly regarded trip to the United States. Air Training Corps (ATC) cadet Alex Lake (17) was selected as the only South Island representative to take part in the ATC exchange programme to the USA.
Alex was one of only three New Zealanders on the trip, joining 19 cadets from around the world.
The cadets were escorted by United States Air Force Rocky Mountain region commander Col Thomas Kettle, chief of staff Lt Col Alisha Cope and chaplain Lt Col John Reutemann.
Their trip included travels through Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, visiting museums and monuments, plus rafting along the Arkansas River.
The cadets also visited an air force base in Montana.
‘‘The air force base was an airlift wing, so that included roughly nine C-130 Hercules.’’
One stop was an army base in Utah, where the cadets took part in a confidence course.
They also saw the Space Shuttle Discovery.
‘‘It did over 36 missions to build the international space station and telescope.’’
Alex was able to make connections with the other cadets from across the world including Belgium, Canada, China and the United Kingdom.
‘‘It felt like a family by the end of it. It felt like we really got to know each other and really got to bond and experience together what USA had to offer the rest of the world.’’
Seeing the United States was an eye-opener for Alex, and he was interested in exploring it further.
‘‘Their infrastructure is amazing, the buildings are massive, same with their cars, trucks, planes, boats — everything is massive.’’
‘‘I’ve seen now how America loves their military, loves their weapons, and how small we are compared to them.’’
A career in aviation beckoned for Alex, who had applied to the New Zealand Air Force.
Becoming a commercial pilot was also a possibility.
The trip was ‘‘like a reward’’ for six years in the New Zealand Cadet Forces, he said.
‘‘I want to encourage my cadets to push for something like this, to work towards, strive for this.’’
‘‘This is my reward — you’ve done all this for your squadron, you’ve done it for cadet forces, congratulations.’’
‘‘Cadet forces isn’t about the officers, it is about the cadets, it is about them, and making sure they have fun, because without the cadets, there wouldn’t be any cadet corps.’’