Raven takes flight

Cultural artifacts play an important role in Raven Indigenous Summer Program ceremonies: staff members Master Sailor Carson Lampman (left) and Sailor First Class Kenidson Derival (right) transport two such items. Photo: Michael McWhinnie

Sonia Ng
NTG Communications

This summer’s iteration of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) Raven Indigenous Summer Program began in earnest Wednesday morning, Aug. 12, when 38 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis candidates from across Canada convened in the Collier Building theatre to undergo the first undertaking of their training: the Swearing-In Ceremony.

As candidates awaited the ceremony’s start, a mixture of excitement and curiosity was reflected in the fidgeting and leg-shaking amongst the seated group. Proceedings began with a greeting.

“You’re about to embark on an adventure that relatively few people get to experience,” said Petty Officer First Class (PO1) Michelle Howell, the Indigenous Program Coordinator at HMCS Venture, the training establishment responsible for conducting the training. “You are here today because you took a step that required a certain kind of courage, and for that I congratulate you. Welcome!”

The Raven Program began in 2003 and is marking its 20th anniversary this year. It is one of five Indigenous Summer Programs offered by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and is open to any Canadian who identifies as Indigenous and is between the ages of 16 and 57. The training is a unique blend of Indigenous teachings, military training, and naval influence. Upon successful completion of their Basic Training Qualification, the recruits are offered the opportunity to continue with part time employment or a fulltime career with the CAF.

The swearing-in was presided by Captain Ryan Clarke and Lieutenant Shaun Lindner from Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre Detachment Victoria. Two by two, candidates came forward and either swore an oath or made a solemn affirmation of allegiance before the officers. The ceremony was the prelude to a six-week journey that will begin with a cultural experience followed by military training based on the Canadian Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) Training Plan.

Over her six-year involvement with Raven, PO1 Howell has progressed from instructor to coordinator. Her enthusiasm for the program is apparent.

“This is an exciting time for the candidates,” she said. “For many, it is their first time away from home or even travelling by air.”

The program promotes the development of attributes that are highly valued beyond their military application, including self-confidence, respect, working with others, time management, and physical fitness.

“Raven is a richly rewarding program for the participants; however, it is equally gratifying for the staff who manage the training,” PO1 Howell said. “To watch the recruits grow in confidence, form friendships within their platoon, overcome challenges together, and ultimately support one-another in the achievement of their common goal is very fulfilling professionally.”

Even after two decades, the goal of the Raven Indigenous Summer Program has stayed the same, to build bridges within the Indigenous Communities throughout Canada. The program encourages participants to find out more about themselves and what they can achieve through hard work, perseverance, and teamwork. Whether or not they decide to pursue a career with the CAF, the experiences and skills gained through the Raven Program remain with participants for life.

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