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Vernon squadron celebrates 80 years

Original agreement for 223 Red Lion Squadron program signed at Vernon High School in 1942
This is the original Air Cadet foundation agreement signed in 1942 for Vernon’s 223 Red Lion Squadron, which celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2022. (Contributed)

Happy 80th anniversary to Vernon’s Air Cadet 223 Red Lion Squadron.

The organization celebrated the milestone in 2022 and, over the years, the cadet program has developed many successful citizens and shares a very interesting history, linking back to the Second World War.

The air cadet organization originated in the early days of World War II when the war effort required young men to meet Canada’s military obligations. The idea was to provide pilot training for teens in advance of coming of age and their potential participation in the conflict.

The purpose has since changed to focus on citizenship, leadership, physical fitness, general aviation and stimulating an interest in the activities of the Canadian Armed Forces.

On Nov. 13, 1942, the agreement was signed to create the first air cadet squadron in Vernon. It was formed up as the Vernon High School Squadron, and cadets trained at the old Fulton high school.

At the 35th anniversary dinner in 1977, the squadron introduced the Red Lion Crest banner and adopted the motto Excel Through Knowledge – to this day, it is a deep, underlying guideline throughout the program. Ultimately, it teaches youth that attitude, effort and gratitude are all in their direct control, and will take them far in their personal and professional lives.

One of many interesting facts about Vernon Red Lion Squadron is that one of its earlier commanding officers – Capt. Vic Polichek – was a tail gunner in Halifax during the war (tail gunner is a crewman on a military aircraft who functions as a gunner defending against enemy fighter or interceptor attacks from the rear, or tail, of the plane).

At first, air cadets accepted only males, but in 1975, female cadets were welcomed into the program as well, and more than 45 per cent of the squadron strength.

One great female cadet example is Capt. Victoria J. Schrauwen, CD, who has been involved with the program for over half of her life.

Her journey started with participating as a cadet in 223 Red Lion Squadron, earning Glider Pilot and Power Pilot wings, reaching the top rank of Warrant Officer First Class, and later returning to 223 as an officer. She has completed two terms as commanding officer and continues to work with 223 in varying capacities. The air cadet program solidified her love for aviation, and she has enjoyed a career working on airplanes for 20 plus years at KF Aerospace.

Her experience and involvement speak volumes about what kind of a program is being offered to Canadian youth,

“There is nothing more rewarding than watching a 12-year-old turn into a confident, accomplished 18-year-old with leadership experience, instructional abilities and a skill-set that sets them up for success while they enter adulthood,” she said.

Currently, 223 Red Lion Squadron is led by Commanding Officer Capt. Jason Paas, CD, who also manages the band and marksmanship optional training for the cadets. He has been a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for more than 30 years, with nearly half of that time working with the cadet program.

Capt. Paas made the transfer over from the Primary Reserve in 2009 when his oldest son was nearly old enough to join cadets. He has been continually impressed with the quality of the youth that he has had the privilege to work with and mentor in their development,

“Even now that all of my three children have aged out of or left the program, I choose to continue, finding the ‘work’ to be inestimably rewarding, both for myself, and for the youth who embrace this amazing opportunity,” said Paas.

To emphasize the experience, relationships and life-lessons learned, Second Lt. Trevor Rossner shares his memories.

“I was a cadet with 223 Red Lion back in the early 1980s. Back then, there were approximately 120 cadets in the squadron,” he said. “I reflect back with fond memories. To this day I am still in touch with many 223 cadets I knew from the 1980s. Highlights I recall include: sitting in a CF18 fighter at Cold Lake, Alta.; taking a ride in a Chinook and twin Huey Helicopter; and visiting USAF Fairchild and seeing the B-25 Bombers. Besides seeing cool things, I learned respect and being timely. I still live by the motto: ‘You are late if you are on time.’”

If these reflections have inspired you or somebody you know, feel free to reach out to the 223 Red Lion Squadron to come in for an exploratory session at any time, or check out for more information.

For more history insights, check out air cadets history at Vernon cadet camp museum,

READ MORE: Vernon air cadet credits exceptional program for national honour

READ MORE: Vernon Red Lion cadet moves on after seven years in program

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