Ravens take flight during RCN day sail

Two candidates for the Raven Program, OS Nicole Kununak (left) and OS Sam Seven Deers (right), receive maneuvering instructions from AB Nathaniel Lewis, during the day sail on Aug. 14. Photo by LS David Gariepy, MARPAC Imaging Services

Two candidates for the Raven Program, OS Nicole Kununak (left) and OS Sam Seven Deers (right), receive maneuvering instructions from AB Nathaniel Lewis, during the day sail on Aug. 14. Photo by LS David Gariepy, MARPAC Imaging Services

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Thirty-seven members of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Raven Aboriginal Program got a taste of life at sea when sailors aboard three Orca-class Patrol Craft Training vessels treated them to a day sail on Aug. 14.

The mostly high-school aged Aboriginal students who hail from communities in Nunavut, North West Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia took part in a six-week work study program at CFB Esquimalt designed to give them an up-close look at the Canadian Armed Forces and the many career options available.

“The day sail is a fun day for the Ravens but it’s also an educational one as they continue to learn about what life in the Navy is all about,” said Lieutenant Commander Daniel O’Regan, the Commandant of the Raven Program. “After over six weeks together the group is very tight right now and the cohesion and sense of pride they have in themselves is great to see.”

On board the Orcas the Ravens were quickly put to work, roving fenders and hauling lines before forming a human chain as, box by box, they loaded the day’s rations into the galleys. The group was given a guided tour of the vessels including the engine room, mess and bridge, where they learned about basic navigation and operations on board, and had a lesson on how to helm the ship.

“It was difficult learning how to steer the vessel at first but after some practice it became fairly easy,” explained Raven Ordinary Seaman David Saviakjuk who comes from Coral Harbour, Nunavut, a tiny community on Southampton Island, located at the north end of Hudson’s Bay.

After a quick break for lunch, the students were treated to a surprise visit from a Sea King Helicopter from 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron. Donning helmets and jumpsuits two lucky students from each vessel were selected to go for a flight in the helicopter.

“I was so excited to be selected; I’ve seen them do this stuff on television but never dreamed I would get the chance and I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said OS Shaunya Ullulaq, who lives in Gjoa Haven on King William Island, Nunavut, and someday hopes to work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Military Police.

Once inside the helicopter they gave the thumbs-up sign to their peers watching from the front window of the bridge. The helicopter then climbed, tilted sideways and roared away taking the students for a ten-minute flight high above the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“The helicopter ride came as a complete surprise and was the highlight of my trip,” added OS Sam Seven Deers of Nelson, B.C., who says his participation in the Raven Program has solidified his interest in someday attending the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont.

The students were housed at Work Point Barracks during their stay in Victoria where they were introduced to an intensive military training program showing them basic military skills including physical training, first aid and weapons handling. The Ravens also participate in a culture camp held over three days at Vancouver Island’s Nanoose Bay and administered by Elders from different First Nations and Aboriginal groups.

“Even if they don’t choose the military as a career path the experiences and the skills they learn through the Raven Program will be with them for the rest of their lives; they will take these new skills and knowledge with them back to their respective communities,” said Lieutenant(Navy) Alicia Morris, Officer In Charge of the Raven Program.

But it’s not just the candidates who benefit from the program according to Lt(N) Morris and LCdr O’Regan, who noted Raven support staff from Fleet School all undergo Aboriginal Awareness Training in an effort to better understand the diverse array of communities the Ravens are coming from.

“The program is an eye-opener for everyone involved and helps bridge the gap of understanding between Native communities and the military,” said LCdr O’Regan.

This year’s Raven candidates successfully completed the Program on Aug. 17 at a graduation ceremony at CFB Esquimalt’s Work Point.

For more information about the Raven Program and how to enrol visit the RCN web page www.navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/en/navy-life/youth-raven.page

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