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Flying high Squadron 26 (Oamaru) Air Training Corps leading air cadet Daniel Gaze outside the corps' Drill Hall base in Itchen St. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

When Daniel Gaze joined the Air Training Corps in 2013, he did not quite know what to expect.

Fours years later, the 16-year-old thinks it is probably one of the best decisions he has made.

Daniel first joined Oamaru’s squadron 26 of the ATC, which has about 40 members, as a 13-year-old to pursue one of his long-held interests.

“I was just kind of interested in the flying side of things. I did taekwondo for four years prior to that so this was another of the things that caught my eye and it was a social thing as well.”

Daniel, who holds the rank of leading air cadet, also liked getting stuck in to the various practical aspects of being part of the squadron.

The Oamaru squadron meets every Tuesday evening at the Drill Hall in Itchen St, where it teaches its members important skills that may help them later in life.

“You get to do everything from the military drill stuff to the flying with the aviation camps we go on. We do physical exercise and medical training and things like that, plus we learn search and rescue skills. It’s quite broad, really.”

Daniel, a Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil, particularly relished taking part in aviation camps.

The most recent camp was held at Oamaru Airport last weekend.

“We just get the opportunity to fly,” he said.

“We go up and have a scenic flight, then we do a g-force flight which is good fun, but some people don’t really like it. We get hands-on flying as well and we got to go up in a helicopter this time too. We were going to go up in a glider too, but because of the weather on the Sunday we didn’t get to do that.”

To raise funds for the camp, ATC members sold bags of compost.

Daniel sold about 360 bags on his own, mostly through Facebook, which showed his commitment to the cause.

He is now considering the possibility of a career in the armed forces.

“I’d probably go into the army or air force if I was to chose one of them. I’ve thought about it quite a few times – I’d definitely go down that path.

“The ATC has given me discipline and structure. It’s given me a range of different things to do and it gets you off the couch and gives you leadership opportunities.

“It’s given me a lot more options and that’s given me confidence . . . being a more out-there person.”

Daniel encouraged young people interested in flight, learning different skills and even earning NCEA credits to consider joining the ATC.

“Give it a try,” he said.

“It’s good for everyone . . . a lot of people find out it’s not quite what they expect. It’s a really good bunch of people to be around.”