1st Time Accolades - 1 Wing Cadet of the Year

Year 12 student, Oliver Roper expressed his shock and surprise at being nominated by his Commanding Officer for Cadet of the Year for the Wing (North Queensland).

Before it could all sink in, he found himself on a video call with the Director General of Cadets, Air Commodore Craig Heap OAM CSC and Commander of Cadets, Group Captain Mark Dorward; quickly followed by a flight to Brisbane where he was officially recognised as the 1 Wing (North Queensland) Cadet of the Year - the very first cadet from the region to receive this honour.

At only 17 years of age, Oliver has already had many memorable experiences and attained valuable life skills from the Air Force Cadets. Oliver's story is an inspiring one and here he tells it in his own words...

"I joined the Australian Air Force Cadets back in the start of 2018. I always had an interest in the military and in flying so the move seemed like a no-brainer. It's quite a different environment from school. It's far more structured and organised; if there were any answers to be found, it would be in the endless collection of manuals. The training was much like school, where each year you go up a "grade", albeit we called them stages - Basic, Proficiency, Advanced and Qualified.

In Basic, you are taught everything you need to know, from ranks to salutes and drills. Beyond that, you learn your more specialised topics, such as aviation, fieldcraft and survival, amongst many others. Being a youth development organisation, the other, more senior cadets were all the instructors.

You rank up in cadets by attending a promotion course. Typically, a weeklong excursion to RAAF Base Townsville where you are taught leadership, instructional technique, management and the traditions of the Air Force. One course is run each year and to gain access you need a nomination from your Commanding Officer, likely from a recommendation from a more senior cadet, or even an application.

I attended these courses when they came, going from Cadet to Corporal, Sergeant and to my rank now, Warrant Officer. At the start of last year was when I was promoted to the latter and had the job of assisting my peers (two others at a similar rank) in running the entire unit of 60-odd cadets. During this time, we've deployed out bush on survival and fieldcraft camps, gone flying and attended shooting competitions, and training weekends; the list is long. At the end of the year, I put my hand up as an instructor for the wing promotion course - a wing is a collection of Squadrons - my wing is all of North Queensland, from about Ayr and up. I had the opportunity of teaching the new leaders of the wing about the ins and outs of the business and it was an incredibly rewarding experience.

At the start of this year (2022) my Commanding Officer asked me what I wanted to do in the Squadron. One of my peers had left due to ageing out (in cadets you must go the year you turn 18) and the other was absent a lot of the time due to his new apprenticeship. The new executives that were below me last year had been promoted up to similar ranks to me and as such, I decided to step back. I told my Commanding Officer that I didn't want a position and instead would be available where he needed me and mentor the new leaders of the Squadron for this year. This year we had a large overhaul of the training programs and materials and drones were delivered to the Squadron as part of it. Due to my background experience in remote control planes, I was nominated to learn how to use them and teach them. As such, I instructed about 20 cadets ranging from the ages of 13 to 15 on how a drone works, how to build, fly and dismantle a drone, and all the science behind it. Due to these drones using lithium polymer batteries, which have the potential to burst into flames or explode when unattended, I went about adapting the national procedure to the squadron level.

Roughly, in July this year I was up to my neck in this legislation and suddenly received a call from my Commanding Officer. He has never called or even texted me before and I was instantly worried. Did I leave some chargers on? Did the batteries explode and has the squadron burnt down? Making contact was none of these things; it was him announcing he had nominated me for the cadet of the year for the wing. This was an amazing surprise, and I was shocked. Fast forward a few weeks and I was on a video call with the Director General of Cadets, Air Commodore Craig Heap OAM CSC and Commander of Cadets, Group Captain Mark Dorward. The former of which is a high-ranking, distinguished RAAF officer and the latter is the commander of the entire organisation. Fast forward to the weekend of the 27th and 28th of August, and I was flown to Brisbane by Defence to attend a dinner with around 400 people in attendance and was officially recognised as the 1 Wing (North Queensland) Cadet of the Year. This is an incredible honour as I am the first cadet from the region to be named this.

An arguably greater achievement is roping in all my counterparts from across Australia and the Warrant Officer of the Air Force into doing the Nutbush on the stage following the evening's proceedings.

I'd like to thank my parents for assisting me and being there for me whenever I needed them. My school, Peace Lutheran College for having faith in me, my Squadron's staff for mentoring me and supporting me, my Commanding Officer for nominating me, the Wing staff for forwarding it nationally and the organisation as a whole for the fantastic experience of a lifetime.

If anyone is looking for a place to fit in, to become a better version of themselves and to have an adventure, I'd say join Air Force Cadets.

I promise it's a coincidence that one of the Values of Peace Lutheran College, Excellence, is also a Value of the Air Force Cadets." - Oliver Roper

We invite you to experience the PLC difference for yourself.

Book a Tour Apply Online