CFAEP award winners describe a ‘phenomenal’ experience
By Ryan Melanson,
Of the 13 candidates who recently completed the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program in Halifax, two were awarded for finishing at the top of their class and setting a positive example for the group over the three-week period.
Chris Anderson, from St. Catherines, Ontario, said he recognized the opportunity that was given to him with the CFAEP, tried to learn and make the most of each experience, and tried to support the other participants as much as possible. It added up to a three-week journey he’ll never forget, and a great launching pad for a CAF career, which he hopes to pursue as an AVN Tech in the RCAF.
“They provided us with the chance to do a ton of different things, things we’ve never done before in our lives, and to meet some great people, so I think it was a phenomenal experience for all of us.”
Anderson received the Thomas George Prince Award, which goes to the candidate who best displays “enthusiasm, co-operation, inspiration of the team spirit and personal integrity” during the program. His colleague Ryan Martin was awarded the Debbie Eisan Seven Teachings Award, which is chosen by the CFAEP participants for the member of the group who best emulates the traditional seven teachings of wisdom, respect, love, honesty, bravery, humility and truth.
Martin, from Brantford, Ontario, said he was taken aback and very appreciative of both the honour from his fellow participants and the overall CFAEP experience. He heard about the program through outreach at school and from other ads or posters on bulletin boards, and finally decided to speak to a recruiter about taking part this year. He said he enjoyed getting to know his colleagues and his CAF mentors and broadening his understanding of what life is like in the Armed Forces. He plans to pursue the Army route, but said stepping inside an RCN ship and going on a RHIB ride helped him see that a naval career can also be exciting.
“Going on a cormorant helicopter ride was also one of the coolest experiences, to see one of the tools used for SAR. We also got to try some rappelling, which was physically difficult and one of the biggest tests of our limits during the program,” Martin said.
“I appreciate that we got a look at all three elements.”
Anderson said he’d have no hesitation recommending the program to others, and that having his first military experience alongside his CFAEP colleagues helped highlight the fact that an Aboriginal identity and a CAF identity don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“I think it’s a great way to get prepared for basic training and military life, but even for any Aboriginal person who just wants to get an idea of what the Armed Forces is all about, it’s a great program.”
PO1 Shawn Swinimer, the course operations PO for this CFAEP group, said they try to make it clear new recruits don’t have to leave their culture at the door when they sign up with the CAF.
“We want them to continue to be proud of that culture and maintain that culture during their career. It’s important that we have a military that looks and feels as diverse as the general public.”
He said the group was enthusiastic, engaged and made his job easy through the three weeks, as they dealt with physical training, marching drills, sleep deprivation, and for some, being away from friends and family for the first time.
“There’s a lot of challenges for the kids through the three weeks, and to see them progress as well as they have and to see them on parade has made me very proud, and I think they should be proud of themselves as well.”