It was "a very big surprise" to Aiden O'Brien when he was named the cadet of the year for showing leadership and maturity in a firefighting youth program.
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The 18-year-old former Warren High School student was awarded for his participation in the Rural Fire Service NSW youth program, which he was involved in through his school since the age of 16.
"You'd have to imagine there'd be a lot of candidates to choose from," the Quambone resident told the Daily Liberal.
The Cadet of the Year Award was announced at a ceremony in Sydney and recognises the efforts of a participant in the Secondary School Cadet Program, which promotes learning, leadership and the values of volunteering and community service.
Aiden was nominated for his great leadership, maturity and teamwork, which had him take on a crew leader role in practical and theoretical tasks throughout the cadet program.
"They taught us about firefighting practices, the theory behind firefighting, all the stuff that makes a fire, and they took us outside of the classroom and taught us how to use the pumps and the hoses from the back of the fire truck," Aiden said.
Aiden said he wasn't appointed a leadership role during the course but he took on the challenge becasue leadership "came naturally" to him.
"I think it was because I was such good friends with everybody that it was kind of a natural thing to me," he said.
Aiden's father has been a captain of the local brigade for 25 years and Aiden said he himself planned to remain a volunteer with the RFS.
Aiden's mum, Linda O'Brien, was flown to Sydney to see her son accept the award on September 7 at Olympic Park and she said the program had been "great for the kids".
"They're off to the championships in Sydney at the end of the month," she said.
The award program is an opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable role young people aged 12 to 25 play in the Service.
Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib, congratulated all the young people who won an award at the ceremony.
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"Congratulations to these exceptional young people who have been recognised for their outstanding participation and accomplishments," he said.
"Anyone who volunteers their time to help protect the community deserves commendation, and it is heartening to see our younger generations dedicating their time to help keep people safe from bushfires.
"I am confident the future of the RFS is in safe hands with young people like these joining as volunteers, and I thank them for their contribution to the NSW community."
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