Sea Cadets begin to meet in person with COVID-19 protocols in place

Sea Cadets begin to meet in person with COVID-19 protocols in place. Photo supplied.

MANITOULIN – The No. 348 Sea Cadet Corps Manitoulin is continuing to meet for its weekly parade nights, but the constraints of hosting virtual meetings in a time when many, and perhaps youth especially, are suffering from online fatigue led corps officers to bring the cadets back into face-to-face meetings as of this week.

“It’s been quite different, that’s for sure,” said Sylvain Boucher, 348 Manitoulin commanding officer (CO).

One of the highlights of the career of a cadet is summertime when a world of opportunities arises. Cadets can opt for summer camps nationwide, and even further afield, to learn more skills to bring back to the corps. Senior Manitoulin cadets have also had paid teaching opportunities at summer training facilities across Canada. This year, those camps were cancelled and held virtually, with many Island cadets gaining their boating licences and VEH radio licence.

The cadets have resumed their Monday parade nights, but CO Boucher explained that the disparity of the Manitoulin internet services has made this difficult and disheartening for some cadets. Like so many organizations and businesses, the Sea Cadets are utilizing the online meeting application Zoom, which also allows users to call in via phone. 

In an attempt to keep things light and fun, all while learning, CO Boucher has been creating games for his corps with a cadet theme. “You can imagine how difficult it is to play when you can only call in,” he said.

Because of discrepancies in internet from community to community, cadets are no longer being penalized for missing parade nights, but can make up for lost time later in the year. CO Boucher has submitted an application for in-person cadet meetings, as well as a COVID-19 operations plan, to CFB Borden, which oversees all cadet operations nationwide. The plan was evidentlyapproved as the corps held its first in-prson meeting oft he season this past Monday, October 19.

The corps normally parades at Manitoulin Secondary School, but Rainbow schools are not allowing outside groups in any of its schools during the pandemic. The Municipality of Central Manitoulin has kindly offered the use of its community centre in Mindemoya for Monday parade nights.

Under the recently approved plans, all cadets must wear a mask, both indoors and outside, and all will be screened prior to attendance being taken. “There will be a paper trail for everything we do.”

“It’s not ideal for everybody, but our main focus is safety,” CO Boucher added.

Drills will also be done in keeping with physical distancing guidelines and training will be modified to “more hands on, fun stuff,” the commanding officer added, “just because there’s so much going on right now.”

The cadet landscape will look different this year for other reasons, too, as competitions will not be taking place, with the exception of the award-winning 348 Manitoulin marksmanship team, which will be taking part in a ‘postal shoot.’

“Targets are sent ahead of time,” CO Boucher explained. “Cadets fire on them, sign then and return them in the mail for judging.”

The corps is already looking ahead to March Break and is planning a sleep camp for Island cadets only which will be led by the senior cadets (who will get paid for their duties) as well as some officers.

The Manitoulin Sea Cadets are still seeking recruits who can join at any time throughout the year. Currently, there are 18 cadets enrolled in the program, but CO Boucher said he hopes to see that number grow to the usual 25 to 30.

“It’s still free, the uniform too,” CO Boucher said. “You can join at any time, just reach out.”

“We’re a small corps, which has its advantages over big corps, which can have upwards of 100 to 150 cadets,” he added. “We have more than enough room to physical distance, plus we know everyone by name!”

All the information on recruitment, including enrolment, can be found at 348Manitoulin.com as well as cadets.ca.