Sky's the limit for Theon
His time as a Timaru Air Training Corp cadet is credited with starting a successful military career for Pleasant Point man Theon TeKoeti.
Fifteen years after his days in 15 Squadron Air Training Corps in Timaru, he is completing Hawk jet training at 15 Wing Moose Jaw in the Canadian air force.
His exposure to flying and drills in the cadets set him up for success as a 17-year-old officer cadet in the New Zealand air force and later in the Canadian armed forces.
He thoroughly enjoyed his officer training at New Zealand air force's Base Woodbourne and graduated at 18 as a pilot officer with an award for Most Officer Potential.
According to TeKoeti the journey to the Canadian air force has been full of incredible experiences, but also uncertainty and difficulty. A career flying fighters in the New Zealand air force was not to be.
"After only a short tenure flying the CT-4E at RNZAF Base Ohakea I disappointedly resigned from the air force and looked overseas for an opportunity to fly jets for another military."
Several years of sacrifice, paperwork, selection panels and travel paid for by working anywhere and everywhere followed.
After completing the initial portion of the selection process to become a pilot in the Canadian air force. TeKoeti studied at the University of Northern British Columbia while waiting for word from military recruiting.
The Canadian United Nations Association was looking for interns for nuclear weapons research and despite having no expertise in that field, his New Zealand military experience opened the door to several years of research into nuclear weapons policy and a publication for UNA-Canada.
He signed a contract in 2008 after gaining a physics degree from the University of Victoria, learning French in Quebec for a year, winter survival and high altitude aero-medical training in Winnipeg, sea survival in Comox and phase one pilot training on the Grob G-120A in Portage la Prairie.
The next phase of training was with the navy's Pacific fleet diving unit.
"This challenging but rewarding environment introduced me first-hand to maritime helicopter operations on the Sea King on the west coast where, finally, I got my marching orders to start flying the CT-156 Harvard II in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan."
He was then selected to fly jets which meant further training on the Harvard across Canada and the United States before a conversion course on the CT-155 Hawk.
"The truth is that it's not hard to serve when you love your job and without the setbacks, delays, trials, and detours flying fast wouldn't be anywhere near as rewarding."
When he finishes his last flights on the Hawk, he'll remain in Moose Jaw as an instructor until a position opens up in "the great white north".
CADETS OFFER TEENS OPPORTUNITIES
The cadet squadrons of Timaru are in recruiting mode.
At last week's Air Training Corps (ATC) open night there were 18 potential new flight officers interested in joining.
Cadet Support Committee secretary Kara Steedman said it was a great response.
"The energy and vibe this year is great. They are a really positive and excited bunch of kids."
Cadets learn a variety of skills when on the three-year basic training course including leadership skills, bush-craft and outdoor survival techniques, military protocols, drills and weapons handling.
The army cadets learn how to be safe on the ground and the ATC learn how to be safe in the sky, Mrs Steedman said.
Every year there are 14 activities held for cadets including tramping, camping and participating in special events such as Anzac Day.
"There's no reason to say Timaru is boring for teenagers. [The cadets] get to see opportunities other kids wouldn't get to see."
The army division parades on Wednesdays at 6.30pm at the Timaru Christian School. The air cadets parade at the same place on Thursdays at 6.30pm.
Anyone aged 13 to 15 and interested in joining is welcome to visit and have a look during these times over the next few weeks.