Loving life in the cadet forces

FLYING HIGH: Fulltime mother and volunteer Air Corps officer Liz Martin is looking forward to the future after receiving her Long Service Medal last week.
FLYING HIGH: Fulltime mother and volunteer Air Corps officer Liz Martin is looking forward to the future after receiving her Long Service Medal last week.

Liz Martin hopes her children will grow up loving the New Zealand Cadet Forces as much as she does.

She is mother to Annabelle, 4, and Shepard, 18 months, and is excited about the arrival of her third child in early January.

Mrs Martin balances her family with her volunteer work as an Air Force training officer in the New Zealand Cadet Forces.

Last week she was awarded a Long Service Medal for 15 years with the corps. It's one of the few medals awarded to civilians.

The involvement makes life very busy for Mrs Martin, who is still trying to find time to decorate her Christmas tree.

"It's voluntary, though. If I didn't enjoy doing it I wouldn't make the time."

The reason she does it is quite simple, she says.

"I'm pretty much there for the teenagers. I just love watching them come in as 13-year-olds who are completely unaware of the world. We get to see them as they grow up."

The 30-year-old says the cadet forces gave her a great sense of belonging as a teen. She joined at the age of 14 while studying at Epsom Girls Grammar.

After three years' training she became a junior leader and was made an officer at 21.

Mrs Martin says the training pays off for the teens.

"The cadets are much more confident and have more personal drive. I can really see the difference that the military-flavoured training does give."

The cadets range from teenagers interested in an armed forces career to foster children who have been advised to join by organisations such as Child Youth and Family.

"We have a whole cross-section of cultures and backgrounds that come but you stick the same uniform on them and they're just a team. They become a community within the first month."

Cadets wear the standard New Zealand Navy, Army and Air Force uniforms with different badges.

There's a fairly even split between the genders.

"I actually had more girls this year but I probably see the boys grow more, just because that change between 13 and 18 is more obvious.

"You definitely see a big difference physically and mentally in all of them by the end."

Mrs Martin will take at least the first term off next year when the baby arrives but she doesn't intend to stay away from cadets for too long.

At weekly meetings she teaches Air Training Corps Squadron 19 drills, first aid, aviation, bushcraft, service knowledge, target shooting, tramping, and leadership at the Unitec campus in Mt Albert.

She has also led field trips to air force bases including Waiouru.

More teenagers should consider joining, Mrs Martin says.

"If you're adventurous, then you'll get lots more adventure opportunities.

"I think it just sells confidence and gives teenagers the opportunity to lead others," she says.

The New Zealand Cadet Forces is a voluntary, disciplined leadership organisation for youth aged 13 to 18.

It is made up of the Sea Cadet Corps, the New Zealand Cadet Corps and the Air Training Corps.

Go to cadetforces.mil.nz for more information about becoming a cadet.

Auckland City Harbour News