Raven Program takes flight again

Photo: Corporal (Cpl) Jay Naples, MARPAC Imaging Services, Esquimalt

Directing Staff and recruits of the 2022 Raven Indigenous Summer Program. Photo: Corporal (Cpl) Jay Naples, MARPAC Imaging Services, Esquimalt

Kateryna Bandura 

The Raven Indigenous Summer Program is back this year with a few major revamps.

Not only are half of this year’s staff women, but two staff members have Indigenous backgrounds. Such diversity brings unique experiences and perspectives, said Petty Officer First Class (PO1) Michelle Howell, Raven’s Program Coordinator.

“This not only gives the Raven recruits a bountiful Basic Training, but also the opportunity to see themselves reflected amongst the staff,” PO1 Howell said.

The Raven Program is a six-week Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) hosted at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt for Indigenous people from across Canada. It is one of five Indigenous Summer Programs offered by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Before the course began on July 7, the staff underwent a variety of training, including drill; weapons; field craft; obstacle course training; Indigenous awareness classes; and an alternate instructing techniques workshop. This year’s staff training program also included new items, such as Road to Mental Readiness coaching and Positive Space training.

The goal of the extra training, PO1 Howell said, is to give the staff an extensive toolset to help support themselves and provide the recruits the best possible experience.

PO1 Howell said Raven is unique because it incorporates CAF training with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit teachings.

“Our Directing Staff teach the Raven recruits military knowledge, field craft, and drill, and run physical training sessions, inspections, and mentor/coach the recruits throughout the course, while our cultural staff incorporates their insightful knowledge and Indigenous traditions.”

Master Sailor (MS) Colleen Chartrand, a member of the Raven Directing Staff, said being part of this program has been incredible.

“We’re one week in and I’ve already seen so much progress [in the recruits]. [They] want to be here and learn about the CAF and each other,” she said.

As a new Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG) member, MS Chartrand believes Raven is a great CAF Indigenous leadership opportunity.

“The staff pre-training was amazing. It was really well-planned, covering a wide range of both CAF and Indigenous subjects. I will use what I’ve learned throughout my CAF career, no doubt,” MS Chartrand said.

About the Program

When the Raven Program began in 2003, it was run out of CFB Esquimalt’s Work Point location. This summer it moved to Albert Head training area.

This year’s program has 31 recruits from nine provinces and territories.

The Raven Program follows the Army Reserve BMQ Training Plan, but includes a few extra elements.

During Culture Camp, participants spend a weekend learning traditional Indigenous values and teachings, and connecting to Canada’s diverse Indigenous cultural history through the guidance of Indigenous teachers and Elders. According to the program’s description, the Culture Camp serves two purposes: it helps candidates understand the need for self-discipline and teamwork, and it instils pride through Indigenous traditions within military service.

This year’s recruits will also take a day sail onboard HMCS Ottawa, one of Canada’s serving warships. During the day sail, Raven candidates experience life at sea aboard a Canadian ship and get exposure to firefighting, ship handling and safety drills, and damage control principles.

Participants will also be attending a career day, where they can learn about different career options and trades within the CAF.

At the end of the course, graduates receive their CAF Army Reserve BMQ certification and are given the opportunity to join a local Reserve Unit, join the Regular Force full-time, or Release from the CAF. If they choose to move forward with a career in the CAF, either full-time or part-time, the CAF helps them select a trade and move on to their next training establishment.

During the BMQ course, Instructed by qualified military personnel, candidates learn:

  • Military knowledge
  • Inspections
  • Physical training
  • Weapons handling
  • Navigation with a map and compass
  • First aid
  • Drill
  • Outdoor field craft
  • A confidence-building obstacle course

By the Start of the Raven Program, Candidates Must:

  • Have completed Grade 10
  • Be a minimum of 16 years old (there is no maximum age limit)
  • Consider themselves to be an Indigenous person (First Nations, Metis, Inuit or non-status)
  • Be a Canadian citizen

A Typical Training Day:

  • Wake up at 0500
  • Participate in either a morning inspection or physical training session
  • Breakfast at 0700
  • Classes: military knowledge, drill, weapons training, and field craft
  • In the evenings, the recruits prep for the next day’s tasks and get to know one another

Photo: Corporal (Cpl) Jay Naples, MARPAC Imaging Services, Esquimalt

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