LITTLE CURRENT—For the Manitoulin Sea Cadet Corps, the annual Mess Dinner, held each year just before Christmas, is a formal event but also an event that celebrates the Corps’ camaraderie as Corpsmen and Corpswomen, their officers, civilian instructors and members of the Manitoulin Navy League gather for an evening of good food, good humour and good fellowship.
Lieutenant (N) Maggie King welcomed everyone to the event, held at the Little Current United Church’s Fellowship Hall, before asking Cadet Miranda MacKay, Petty Officer First Class, to issue the “orders of the day.”
Cadet MacKay explained to the gathering that rules of table etiquette (she gave several examples of correct etiquette) must be adhered to at this formal banquet and, in the event members of the Corps broke some of the rules, there would be consequences and left it to the Cadets to police one another’s behaviour, setting up each of the long tables to keep a close watch on the other table and report infractions as they observed them. In keeping with tradition, the tables were individually named port and starboard.
Besides being a useful reminder of the life skills of polite dining in society, Cadet MacKay’s instructions led directly to the evening’s entertainment as Cadets from “rival” tables looked for the most modest infractions possible to send some of their cohort to have punishment meted out by the head table. This role fell, as tradition dictates, to the youngest cadet by age who is deemed to be the Captain of the Day.
At Monday’s event, Cadet Julia Doucette-Waindubance had this role and, as she was called upon to “punish” the cadets sent before her for a variety of real or imaginary offences including not using the correct hand for their dinner fork, incorrect sock etiquette, too-small uniforms and the like.
After careful consideration (and some consultation with others at the head table) some of the punishments Cadet Doucette-Waindubence, shyly levied including doing the chicken dance, singing various Christmas songs, sentencing the “culprit” to pretend to be riding a motorcycle, all to much good natured laughter and applause. Cadet Doucette-Waindubence is new to the Corps and, in the tradition of mess dinners, for the occasion she was given the rank and wore the insignia equivalent to the highest-ranking person at the event. In her case, the young Ordinary Seaman had the rank and associated regalia of a naval lieutenant. She acquitted herself well.
Bob Jewell, chairman of the Manitoulin Navy League, the Sea Cadet Corps sponsoring group, spoke highly of the Cadets achievements and congratulated the officers and civilian instructors for their hard work.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant (N) Maggie King in turn thanked the officers and instructors and the Navy League.
In particular, she thanked Denis Blake, who had served the Corps for over a dozen years as an officer and who had preceded her as Commanding Officer. Lieutenant (R) Blake has agreed to rejoin the Corps as a civilian instructor and to lead the weekly practices of the championship shooting team.
The Manitoulin Sea Cadets shooting team is one championship short of 10 Northern Ontario championships and Mr. Blake was good-naturedly encouraged to make the record an even 10 this year. He reminded members of the team that they resume practice in the new year on Sunday, January 7 at the Four Directions Complex at Aundek Omni Kaning First Nation.
Jeff Marshall, with the late Ed Kift the motivating force behind the Manitoulin Sea Cadet Corps, was a head table guest. He spoke briefly about the Corps’ early days and how Ed Kift had been to a meeting in Sudbury many years ago and then called him to come to see him and told him “we’re going to have a Navy League Corps on Manitoulin!”
Tim VanVolkingburgh, a former Sea Cadet who had gone directly into the armed forces this year from high school, attended the mess dinner and Mr. Marshall addressed the former Cadet directly. Mr. VanVolkingburgh politely stood when he was being addressed. Mr. Marshall said how proud he was that the young man was the latest to have chosen a military life after his Sea Cadet experiences. Mr. Marshall went on to encourage any of the other Cadets present to consider this option and ended his remarks with a good-natured, “but GO NAVY!”
For two veteran Manitoulin Sea Cadets, the highlight of the evening was their formal appointments to positions of trust and leadership by Lieutenant (N) Maggie King.
Lieutenant King added some drama to her announcements which were made when the mess dinner was over and the Sea Cadets, officers, civilian instructors and members of the Navy League were mingling socially.
She asked for everyone’s attention and as the room drew quiet, announced that she was appointing Cadet Miranda MacKay, whose rank is Petty Officer First Class as the Corps’ Coxswain.
Cadet MacKay will continue to hold the same rank, but through this appointment, she will have the responsibility of providing peer leadership to the other Cadets. She is now being recognized by her commanding officer as the top cadet in the corps and, as such, is expected to become involved in any disputes or problems among the cadets and to liaise between cadets and the officers about disputes and problems.
In short, as Coxswain, Cadet MacKay is a role model for her fellow cadets, especially younger recruits.
Lieutenant King’s other appointment was for Chief Petty Officer Secord Class Nick Harper who she named the Corps’ Regulating Petty Officer.
In this capacity, Cadet Harper will assist the Coxswain by stepping into her role if she is not available and ensuring the Coxswain’s directions are carried out by the Cadets.
Both Cadet Harper and Cadet MacKay are veteran members of the Manitoulin Sea Cadet Corps and it is to their credit that they have been appointed to these leadership positions.
While Cadet appointments like these are often made at regular parade nights, it was appropriate for Lieutenant King to choose the opportunity of the mess dinner to make the announcement in front of an appreciative crowd that responded to the appointments with applause.