Graduation marks 20 years of Raven success

Graduates pose for a group photo at Parade Square, Work Point Barracks CFB Esquimalt on August 21, 2023.

Michael McWhinnie
Public Affairs Advisor, NTG

Of all the tasks performed by staff within the naval training establishments, conducting graduation ceremonies is amongst the most gratifying. Course directors and instructors are all smiles, knowing they have supported the growth and development of their students. But the pride and sense of accomplishment observable in the candidates themselves made the recent Raven graduation ceremony special.

With shoulders back and chins up, demonstrating their newly acquired mastery of military drill, 32 graduates aged 16 to 26 from various First Nations (FN), Inuit and Métis communities across Canada marched smartly onto the Work Point parade square on Aug. 21 to mark the successful completion of six weeks of academically, physically, and emotionally challenging training.

RAVEN candidates view and pass around an Inert 57mm round onboard the HMCS Winnipeg (FFH 338) docked at “C” Jetty, HMC Dockyard, CFB Esquimalt, Victoria, British Columbia, on August 17, 2023. The RAVEN program hosted by the Royal Canadian Navy gives young Indigenous people the chance to build new skills and experience different trades the Canadian Armed Forces has to offer that they may choose to pursue as a future career. Photo: Aviator Conor R.G. Munn, Canadian Armed Forces Imagery Technician

With Indigenous artifacts and regalia on display, musical accompaniment by the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy and set against the backdrop of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the ceremony began promptly at 1:00 p.m. with a sashing ceremony conducted by Métis Nation of British Columbia representatives and a concurrent culture performance by local lək̓ʷəŋən dancers, singers and drummers.

The Raven Program is in its 20th year and is one of five Indigenous Summer Programs offered by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). It is based on the Army Primary Reserve introductory military qualification course supplemented with Indigenous cultural teachings. Raven aims to foster positive connections with Indigenous communities nationwide while raising awareness among participants of career opportunities within the CAF.

Elder Rick Peter from Cowichan FN offered an inspiring Indigenous blessing before Awards and Presentations.

RAVEN member practising hose handling techniques onboard Patrol Craft Training(PCT) Vessel Moose on 17 August 2023.

Sailor Third Class (S3) Kaylee Storms from Sudbury, Ont., and a member of the Cree FN, received the Top Candidate Award as the graduate with the highest overall achievement.

“I enrolled in Raven because I wanted to challenge myself, to push my limits and explore what I am capable of,” she said. “I am a bit shy and struggled with using my voice in certain circumstances, but things got easier as the course progressed, and my confidence grew.”

She said she enjoyed the physical training, including rucksack marches, and discovered she could do much more than she gave herself credit for, growing in self-discipline and self-motivation.

S3 Jackson Blackbird, from Walpole Island, Ont., and a member of the Ojibway FN, was awarded the Spirit of Camaraderie Award, as the graduate who displayed the best esprit-de-corps as selected by his peers.

“From the beginning, the biggest challenge for me was the social aspect and learning how to accomplish goals in a group,” Blackbird said. “I have gained a much greater understanding of the importance of friendships and appreciation for what can be done with teamwork. I’ve also acquired a better ability to be punctual. Raven was the best summer I’ve ever had, and I will strongly recommend it to my friends.”

The parade ended with Commodore (Cmdre) Patrick Montgomery, Reviewing Officer and Commander of Naval Reserves, taking the salute and the playing of ‘God Save the King’. Just prior, Cmdre Montgomery offered concluding remarks. He stressed the value of the lifelong friendships created during experiences such as Raven and how the program exposed participants to CAF values such as loyalty, inclusivity, accountability and courage. 

“For those of you who choose, the door is open to you in a trade of your choice, in either the Regular or Reserve Forces. And if you return completely to civilian life, I truly hope you carry the positive lessons from the Raven Program forward, in your communities, schools, or workplaces, and help others who may benefit from your new experience.”

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