LITTLE CURRENT—Just before Christmas, cadets with Manitoulin Sea Cadet Corps #348 gathered at the Royal Canadian Legion in Little Current for their annual end-of-year mess dinner—a chance to gather as a group, enjoy a nice meal and reflect on a year of growth, both on a personal level and as a corps. It also enabled Commanding Officer Lieutenant (N) Maggie King a chance to share the dire need for volunteers with her cadets to pass on to their loved ones in order to keep this growing program alive.
The cadet corps is in desperate need of civilian instructors and volunteers and the Department of National Defence (DND) is willing to pay for these services, she explained. Anyone wishing to dedicate their time to the Manitoulin Navy League, the overseeing group, would then become an officer through the DND and be trained, on a yearly basis, until the rank of sub lieutenant is reached.
“Training is not physical or strenuous, and you’re paid to do it,” Lieutenant King explained. These officers are also paid for their time on Monday nights, which is when the corps meets at the Little Current recreation centre hall. It’s not a whole lot, she said, but it does cover the cost of gas, as well as a pension from National Defence. “And we’re always looking for people to just volunteer,” the lieutenant added.
“It’s such a rewarding program,” she said.
In 18 months, Training Officer Lieutenant Denis Blake retires from the corps, and Lieutenant King’s tenure is up as well which is why the push is on now to see these positions, and more, filled.
“To keep the Sea Cadets going, we do need volunteers,” Lieutenant King stressed, noting that there are currently 38 cadets registered—a record high.
For the youth involved (aged 8 to 12), cadets gives them the opportunity to sail in the summer, compete at biathlon and range shooting events, and participate in band and drill competitions throughout Northern Ontario, among many other activities. Manitoulin has proved to be especially fierce on the shooting range, taking the regional title four years in a row. The range team trains every Sunday at the Legion in Little Current.
The cadets also take part in seamanship competitions and have the opportunity to do summer training in the form of camps across the country. And another bonus? The cost to join the corps is free. The uniforms are supplied, DND covers the busing to and from events and the kids are even paid to go to camp.
“They’ll have general training the first year, then they can specialize in what they like,” Lieutenant King said. “This follows them on through life. It’s responsibility, respect, addressing their elders and manners too. We’ve got such an awesome group of kids.”
She said that having the cadets participate in so many public functions, from Remembrance Day ceremonies to Manitoulin Trade Fair opening ceremonies to the Swing Bridge Weekend, really draws attention from their peers, who in turn want to join.
“They get noticed,” she said.
“I don’t want to lose the program—it’s so important for the youth of Manitoulin,” the lieutenant implored.
The night of the mess dinner, the corps was divided into two tables, starboard and port, with the head table between, among them the captain of the day (the youngest cadet) and the coxswain (the senior cadet), who got to call the shots for the night. Any cadet not following mess orders (no elbows on the tables, no speaking with one’s mouth full, improper use of cutlery, etc) would be subjected to some good-natured teasing.
Before tucking in, with forks competently held in left hand and knives in the right, Lieutenant Blake addressed the corps and noted their accomplishments over the last year, including entering a biathlon team in a Sault Ste, Marie competition in January and a seamanship competition in February where they both fared extremely well. He gave a special nod to Leading Seaman (LS) Shawana who got a perfect score in line toss and also to the marksmanship team which placed first in a Naughton competition.
In June, Lieutenant Blake continued, the cadets held their annual review and also helped Espanola become its own standalone corps.
He also announced the new marksmanship team: Petty Officer Second Class (PO2) Murphy, LS Eric Harper and Nick Harper, LS Ben Sayyae and Petty Officer Second Class Brad Sayyae.
Five cadets also received promotions that night from the rank of ordinary seaman to able seaman. Those cadets are: Shane Beboning, Evelynn McAllister, Andrew Splawnyk, Miranda Mackay and Joel Lovelace.
This June will mark the 10th anniversary of the 348 Corps on Manitoulin, he concluded, noting that two former coxswains in that time have since joined the military with Chief Petty Officer First Class (CPO1) Mason Dugas also having plans to join in the near future.
Lieutenant King also spoke, commending the Navy League for the work they do, especially the fundraising that keeps them afloat. This prompted a thunderous applause from the cadets.
She also thanked the cadets for their dedication, coming out each and every Monday night and for the marksman, Sundays too.
“Thank you each and every one of you—you all do an awesome job,” she said. “And thanks to the officers and civilian instructors, without you there would be no corps.”
Navy League President Bob Jewell also thanked the officers and instructors, as well as the cadets. “I get so proud to see you guys on Monday nights, or even on Remembrance Day or tag days, in your uniforms. I’m so proud of you and you’ve accomplished so much.”
Throughout dinner, the coxswain kept everyone on their toes, calling out the names of cadets who were not obeying mess orders and having them present themselves between the port and starboard tables before awaiting instruction. “You know you’re not supposed to eat with your elbows on the table. Now sing ‘Jingle Bells!’ he ordered one cadet whose table manners had momentarily deserted him.
For those cadets who were reprimanded but who were naturally on the shy side, in a heartwarming move other members from their table ran to the centre to stand side-by-side with the cadet and help him/her sing the required song. Each ‘humiliation’ was met with good grace by each of the cadets and was followed with much applause and encouragements from CPO1 Dugas.
“Through my years, a lot of people come and go,” CPO1 Dugas shared with his fellow cadets, “but if you stick with the program and put your time in, it really does pay off. The program is a lot of fun—it’s been six years for me now—and the officers really know their stuff. There’s stuff you guys get to do that other kids don’t get the chance to do.”
The floor was opened up to give the opportunity for the rest of the corps to speak.
“Cadets really helped a lot with schooling,” said Andrew Blake, a former coxswain with the corps who was home for the Christmas holidays and who is currently studying in the police foundations program at Cambrian College. “It may seem dry at first, but as you get higher in the ranks, it becomes more fun.”
PO1 Quinton Cosby said, “Cadets taught me a lot and I appreciate them teaching me. Soon many of you guys will be in PO2 and PO1 and it all gets easier,” he added, addressing the corps.
Civilian instructor and former cadet Terrence Abotossaway also spoke, noting that he was a cadet for five years. “At one point I thought of quitting, but a voice in my head told me to stick with it—now I’m a CI. It helps you with self-respect and respect for others. Just stick with it,” he urged.
Founding Navy League member Jeff Marshall introduced himself to the cadets.
“Whatever you get out of this is what you put into it,” he said, explaining that the actual age of the Manitoulin Navy League program from its inception is 12 years. “It was a task, but we enjoyed it. I stand here today and see what we’ve produced.”
Mr. Marshall, a Navy veteran himself, said he still gets visits from cadets who have moved into the armed forces. “And that’s so rewarding,” he added.
LS Alexis French thanked everyone for helping her to get her where she is today. “I may come off as strict, but I’m here to help you whenever you need it,” she said to her fellow cadets.
“Before I joined the cadets, I was kind of obnoxious, but joining cadets has really changed me for the better, and without the seniors, I couldn’t have done it without you,” PO2 Bradley Sayyae said. “Thank you.”
“I have watched your metamorphosis into responsible, confident young people who have found their voice and their place in society,” Commanding Officer Lieutenant King concluded. “Through listening to your seniors, each and every one of you will be able to achieve any goal in life—we’re all here for you.”