How to read a uniform

Rank Insignia, Badges, and Medals

You can tell a lot about a cadet by their uniform. Like the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, the symbols displayed on uniforms tell a story. Generally speaking, these symbols fall into four categories – rank insignia, star level badges, training badges, and medals.

Rank badges are based on criteria such as attendance and performance. Thus a brand new cadet will start off at the rank of “Cadet” (Cdt) but by attending frequently and participating in the program will soon be able to advance on the rank of Lance Corporal (LCpl), Corporal (Cpl), then Master Corporal (MCpl). Past this point cadets enter the senior cadet ranks which begin at Sergeant (Sgt) and then move on up to Warrant Officer (WO), Master Warrant Officer (MWO), and Chief Warrant Officer (CWO). But rank not only establishes who has been around longer, it also helps establish who’s in charge. Once you learn how to tell the difference between the Lance Corporal’s single chevron and the Sergeant’s three chevrons you’ll be well on your way to understanding who’s been around longer and who’s to go to for help or advice.


Star level badges also help tell a story about a cadet. The star levels program covers a variety of subjects including topics like citizenship, physical fitness, marksmanship, outdoor adventure skills, map and compass, camping, sports, and team leadership. Cadets complete training and activities at different levels of instruction starting at the Green star level and advancing on to Red, Silver, and finally Gold star level. The highest star level is Master Cadet and is earned by cadets who have attained all other star levels. The National Star of Excellence badge is awarded to cadets who meet a broad series of achievements at or beyond the Gold star level.

Training badges are earned through participation in optional training programs. These badges recognize achievement for things like competence in first aid, orienteering, rappelling, biathlon, marksmanship, military band / pipe band, drill team, foreign exchange trips, and more.

Finally, you might even see some cadets with medals on their uniform. For example, if you see a cadet wearing the Army Cadet Service Medal you’ll know she completed four years of service in the program. If you see someone with the Major-General W.A. Howard medal you’ll know that cadet is the one cadet in their province and territory who received the highest overall assessment on their Gold Star year. Cadets wearing the Royal Canadian Legion Cadet Medal of Excellence have performed citizenship activities that meet or enhance the aims and objectives of the cadet movement.  The Lord Strathcona Medal is awarded to cadets who have shown exemplary performance in physical and military training. Someone with the Cadet Award for Bravery Medal, has performed an outstanding act of valour and maybe even saved someone’s life.

Of course the best way to learn about the cadet program is to be in it. If that might be you, visit our How To Join page for more information.

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