Ravens stretch wings on day sail


Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

After six weeks of military training, members of the Raven Program got a glimpse into Navy life with a Day Sail aboard a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) frigate.

Twenty-three participants of the Raven Indigenous Summer Program embarked HMCS Ottawa on Aug. 11. The Ravens participated in an extensive guided tour of the vessel’s departments along with multiple static displays as they sailed through the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“Sometimes it’s hard for a recruit to envision life in the military outside of their basic training, so the Day Sail offers this outer glimpse,” said Petty Officer First Class (PO1) Michelle Howell, Raven Program Coordinator.

The Program was founded in 2003 and followed the basic principles of the Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification (BMQ). This year’s edition was hosted at Albert Head Training Centre from July 7 to Aug. 18 and included recruits from all nine provinces and territories.

“The Raven Day Sail was an excellent opportunity for recruits to experience a day at sea and interact with military members outside of course staff,” said PO1 Howell.

The Ravens witnessed firefighting and hose handling demonstrations and interacted with the ship’s Helo (helicopter) Team and its embarked CH-148 Cyclone. Members also interacted with the ship’s Dive Team and their diving equipment. The crew then demonstrated Naval Boarding Party drills and person overboard rescue procedures. The Ravens also experienced some of the vessel’s manoeuvres, such as heavy turns and quick stops.

Participants also visited some of the ship’s departments during their guided tour, such as Ottawa’s Operations Room, the ship’s Bridge, and the Machinery Control Room, where Ravens learned about the mechanical operations of the ship’s engines and generators.

Aiden Dillon, a member of the Raven program, described his first overall experience aboard an RCN ship as ‘great’ and said he was most impressed by the ship’s dive team and members of 443 Helicopter Squadron. He was also taken aback by the agility and skill required by the crew to manoeuvre in the cramped confines of the lower deck with its low ceilings and maze of ladders.

“I was stumbling on the ladders every time,” Dillon said. “It was also interesting to see how the crew can get to different parts of the ship by going down the ladder one way and up the other and how they remembered their way.”

Dillon, 17, of Windsor, Ont. is a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames. He said he initially joined Ravens to earn his BMQ qualification, but friendships he developed during training were wholly unexpected and have made him a better overall person.

Lieutenant-Commander (LCdr) Justin Simmons, Ottawa’s Executive Officer said the Ravens’ visit was a great way to ‘invigorate’ a new generation of sailors. He said two members of his ship’s current crew are Raven graduates.

“They were delighted to give back to the program and happy to facilitate a fine ending to this year’s Raven Program,” LCdr Simmons said.

The Raven Program is one of five Indigenous Summer Programs by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). It includes a culture camp at the beginning and then moves into military training such as military knowledge lessons, drill, weapons training, field craft, the obstacle course, and much more. At the end of the course, the graduates receive their CAF Army Reserve BMQ certification and are allowed to join a local reserve unit, become a full-time Regular Force member or be released from the CAF.

Briana Soloman, another Raven Program participant, was impressed with the teamwork and camaraderie onboard.

“I really admired how everyone worked together to get the job done,” she said. “Each of the crew had their own specific role and job to do but they all come together to make it happen and work hard to get there.”

The 26-year-old is a St. Thomas University student from Kingsclear First Nation in New Brunswick. She said she joined the Raven Program to explore career opportunities in the RCN, with the Naval Warfare Officer path catching her eye the most.

Mackenzie Nolan, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student from Brampton, Ont. and member of the Missanabie-Cree First Nation, said she was looking forward to boarding Ottawa after visiting the former RCN Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Haida, which serves as a National Historic Site and floating museum in Hamilton, Ont. The Day Sail was her first time aboard a commissioned RCN vessel.

“I was very excited to be aboard Ottawa, a ship of considerable size, and see what the lifestyle could be like and if I’d be interested in joining the Navy,” she said.

Nolan is interested in becoming a Naval Communicator and said her favourite part of the tour was seeing the ship’s Operations Room.

Besides embarking on a Day Sail, Raven Program participants attended a Military Career Day on Aug. 15 to learn more about CAF opportunities after BMQ. The Raven Program wrapped up for the year with a graduation ceremony at Work Point’s Parade Square on Aug. 17.


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