Local youth of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corp, Captain Cook Branch, met at a two-day training camp in the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, on Aug. 12 and 13 with officers attending from Prince George and Kitimat due to vacancies in Prince Rupert which threaten the existence of the corp.
The two-day training exercise, an alternative to the annual summer camp, was the first time many of the participants had met in person in more than 18 months when the start of the global pandemic dry-docked all of the youth activities. There are currently 24 cadets enrolled in the Prince Rupert corp.
Commanding officers travelled from Prince George and Kitimat to ensure the dual-day activity could occur as the corp has been without a C.O. since the departure last Aug. of its previous cadre instructor.
Commanding Officer Judy Peters is based in Prince George and is the interim C.O. of the P.R. corp. She travels to the city on a monthly basis and said the cadet experience and camps for youth are phenomenal.
“These kids have given up [time] in their summer to come and do cadet training. It’s a great opportunity for them to stay engaged in the program,” she said.
The cadet program’s unique thing is that it is cadets leading cadets, which is a strong aspect of the organization Peters said, with typically the youth not becoming involved in drugs or getting into trouble with the police.
“We are giving them the opportunity to learn some life skills,” Peters said. “It is a community-based program for the community.”
When cadets start, they first learn about teamwork, leadership, and a chosen element like drill or seamanship. As they progress, they develop into the leadership role and instruction role, Peters said.
Cadet Corps across the country have taken a 50 per cent enrollment hit since COVID-19 when activities had to convert to online virtual meetings.
“Kids don’t join cadets for virtual reality. They join for the reality of adventure,” the officer said.
“We lucked out because [two of the visiting instructors] are Navy people. I’m Army. They definitely have the corporate knowledge to deliver the Sea Cadet program,” Peters said, who is the zone training officer for Prince George West and oversees seven cadet corps from Vanderhoof westward.
Lieutenant Pam Gueguen said she was happy to attend the local camp from her main base in Kitimat.
“There have been no summer training camps due to COVID-19,” she said. “All across the nation, weeks are chosen for cadets to complete local activities. Prince Rupert held a combination of seamanship, drill, marksmanship, biathlon and sports tabloid activities.”
Lt. Pam Gueguen travels through the North with Lt. Graham Gueguen.
“Up in the North and the Interior, they need a couple of officers to go and travel to different locations,” she said, “We are based out of Kitimat, even though we are navy officers, we work with the Army cadets.”
The lack of officers in the North caused the Kitimat youth corp activities to shut down for a year, which is the same plight facing the Prince Rupert corp if a local commanding officer can not be found.
To inject life back into the military-based youth program, the Kitimat sea cadet corp merged with the army cadets. However, with no other cadet corps in Prince Rupert, that option is not available locally.
“They don’t have any cadet instructor cadre officers in Prince Rupert. Instructors are part of the Canadian Forces military reserves,” Lt. Gueguen said. “We are all part-time, and we strictly just work with the cadet program, but we don’t have any of those officers in Prince Rupert. We are looking for new ones. The problem is if we don’t find them, the corp will not stay alive.”
Lieutenant Graham Gueguen said all anyone needs to be an instructor is to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident over 18 with a grade 12 education. After enrolling there is a basic medical to ensure fitness to work with the group.
He said it is nothing like regular force basic training. There is no crawling through mud or scaling up walls. Cadre instructors receive the Basic Officer Training Course (BOTC) to learn about the military and military law, and Occupation Training Course OTC where you learn about becoming a CIC officer.
“You’ll never be shipped overseas,” he said. “All ages and walks of life are welcome — we had someone who in their 60s enroll because they just wanted to work with kids.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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