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Cadet of the Year an inspiration to the next generation

Cadet Warrant Officer Hamish Cook of No 88 (District of Waimakariri) Squadron, Air Training Corps, may only be 19, but he’s already inspiring the next generation of young leaders.

29 November, 2021

Now, as this year’s Cadet of the Year, Hamish says he will continue to champion the benefits that the NZ Cadet Forces (NZCF) can bring.  

“I would recommend Cadet Forces to any young person;  so many young people learn valuable skills and values and make long-lasting friendships. My advice for a new cadet would be do everything. Every activity I have ever done has been extremely fulfilling,” he said.

Each year the award is given to the cadet who most exemplifies the NZCF core values of Courage, Commitment, Comradeship and Integrity. 

A Christchurch local, Hamish joined the Cadets in early 2015 when his unit, 88 SQN, was founded. His reasons for joining were very clear. 

“I had a big interest in military aircraft, so when my neighbour saw an article in the local paper advertising the unit's formation, he passed it on to my parents. I had a lot of fun at my first parade night and I've never looked back,” he said.  

Having moved up through the ranks, his current role primarily involves maintaining unit standards, advising his unit commander and teaching Cadets and Non Commissioned Officers (NCO). An average Thursday evening consists of teaching lessons to the cadets, running the NCO meetings and running the weekly parade.  

When he first joined, it was the friendships, the firearms training and drills and that he enjoyed most. While they are still things that he loves about the Cadets, his passion now is passing on the knowledge and values he has gained to the next generation of young leaders. 

Hamish has participated in Exercise Cadet 2020, a 5 day Tri-Corps Exercise held in Waiouru, where 1000 cadets, plus a large contingent of  cadet officers and support staff gathered for several days of activities. But one of his proudest moments in cadets has been staffing the Junior Non Commissioned Officer courses, spending a week with young Cadet ranks teaching them leadership, teamwork and self-management skills. 

“Seeing them march out on parade at the end of the week is such a rewarding feeling,” Hamish said.

The Cadet of the Year citation noted Hamish’s passion for leading and helping to develop people, using the skills he has learnt in cadets, and highlighted his work during the first New Zealand wide lockdown to move the unit’s training online: “his leadership and concern for the cadets of the squadron included regular welfare checks, engaging with them all to keep morale high. This energy flowed throughout the squadron keeping all members of the unit connected and engaged.”  

Hamish had no idea that his unit commander had nominated him, so the eventual award took him completely by surprise.

“This award is something that I will always treasure. Cadet Forces is my passion and I’ve put everything I have into it. But this award really belongs to my unit and all the people who have mentored me throughout my 6 years.” he said.  

Hamish, whose next goal is to join the Air Force in the near future, says the Cadet Forces has given him many of his most treasured memories and experiences, and taught him lessons that have helped build the person he is today. 

“I hope that every cadet gets to experience all the incredible opportunities the organisation has to offer and has as much fun as I have had,” he said.