Following two years of interruptions and virtual training sessions, the 908 Rainy Lake Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron reassembled on Sunday for an in-person Annual Ceremonial Review at the Memorial Sports Centre.
Joined by the cadets’ friends, family members and reviewing officer Lieutenant Commander Rodney J.R Turcotte, the 19th annual review ceremony, held at the Sportsplex auditorium on Sunday afternoon, was a welcome return to an in-person celebration after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the organization to find new ways of doing things in early 2020.
908 Cadets Commanding Officer Captain Andrew Saciuk said that the cadets had stopped their activities during the pandemic, turning instead to virtual adaptations of usual programs, but the shift could never perfectly replicate what the cadets usually experience.
“Since the COVID lockdown started in 2020 it’s been really challenging for us,” Saciuk said.
“We had to transition from an in-person training program, which is very hands on, to a Zoom training program where all of our training had to be conducted by video. It’s been a real challenge to come up with hands-on activities that cadets do through a virtual environment. We’re very thankful now that we’ve been able to come back to our in-person set up where we can actually go back out and do the hands-on activities that we like doing.”
Those in-person activities include things like rocket night, field exercises and aviation training, all of which Saciuk said proved very challenging to engage with in a virtual capacity. Some cadets, he noted, have never even had the opportunity to do these activities in a hands-on capacity, having joined the cadets during the COVID lockdown.
“There were cadets who started in our program as virtual cadets,” he said.
“It’s been challenging to try to engage them as much as we can and do in a virtual environment what we normally do in person. It’s a real testament to these kids wanting to be in the program and wanting to stick it out until we got past COVID, that we can get back into an in-person and hands-on venue, which is obviously what we all wanted for a long time now.”
Now back in person, Saciuk noted it was heartening to see the continuing support from the various partners the cadets have in the area, from two different Legion branches to sponsoring businesses to the townships themselves, and of course the parents of cadets.
“We extended our invitations out to all of our strong local supporters,” Saciuk said.
“It’s really heartening to see all of our VIPs and parents come out. We haven’t seen a turnout like this in a long time. It’s been a long time coming, and I think everyone is really thankful that we’ve been able to get back into the business of what we do.”
Lt.-Cmdr. Turcotte is the officer commanding the northern Ontario area and is based out of North Bay. Turcotte said he has been on a tour of sorts through the north as he visits different cadet units, the first time he’s been able to do so since the outbreak of the pandemic, and noted that being able to visit and interact with cadets for occasions like this is important for everyone involved.
“This means everything to us, to be honest,” he said of returning to in-person visits and activities.
“Because we’re in North Bay, we’re obviously quite a distance from this part of the province. We have a sub-office in Thunder Bay and Timmins, as well as the main office in North Bay that we use to oversee the area. It’s one thing for us to be able to do that outreach in the local communities where we are stationed in North Bay, but we need to make sure we get out to the other ends of the region, which is why we’re here.”
Turcotte explained that while the staff at headquarters do tend to get out for large scale events like the Band and Drill competition, or the Biathlon competition, he also makes it a priority to do a larger tour of the northern region at least every two years if he can’t accomplish it sooner. Not only does this allow him to do inspections of different units and participate in end of year reviews like the one held on Sunday, but it also allows for more interactions with the cadets themselves.
“We’re checking on facilities, training venues,” Turcotte explained.
“We’re taking opportunities to talk to local leadership, in terms of the unit officers, just to get a feel for how things are going. You get a lot of dialogue over COVID, but that’s email, telephone, Zoom and Teams and whatnot, but miss the chance to do the face-to-face with cadets. Just a while ago I was talking with a young lad, a sergeant, he’s talking about opportunities for the summer he wanted to look at, and the future. He wanted to be a cook on a steamship line. You don’t get that interaction over the camera or email, so having a chance to do this is just incredibly important.”
For the local cadets, Saciuk explained that the summer will mark the return to in-person activities and opportunities that have been missing over the COVID pandemic, noting that several cadets from the 908 unit are lined up to attend summer training camps located elsewhere in the country.
“We have cadets going to Cold Lake, Alberta,” Saciuk said.
“We have cadets going to Trenton, we have cadets going to Thunder Bay. We’re sending cadets all throughout again, and it’s a good feeling to have people back and engaged for the summer to do the type of advanced training that we haven’t necessarily had the ability to do here in the past training year. We’re looking forward to doing more overnight activities in the fall as well, into the coming training year. It’s baby steps for us, but we’re really thankful that we’re able to get back into the swing of things.”
For more information about the 908 Rainy Lake Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, visit their Facebook page, or head to www.cadets.gc.ca.
- Top New Recruit – LAC A Saciuk
- Top Level 2 – Cpl E Whitfield-Barbeau
- Top Level 3 – FCpl Y Langevin
- Top Level 4 – Sgt R Donaldson
- Top Overall – WO2 G DeGagné
- Top Marksman – LAC A Saciuk
- Most Improved Marksman – LAC M Rousseau
- Core Value – WO2 C DeGagné
- Aviation Award – WO2 M Langevin
- Warrant Officer’s Shield Award – Sgt R Donaldson
- Legion Community Service Award – WO2 M Langevin
- Participation Award – Cpl J Dittaro, LAC A Saciuk
- Marksmanship Team 2021/2022
- FSgt D Batiuk
- LAC C Rousseau
- LAC M Rousseau
- LAC A Saciuk
- WO2 E Saciuk
LAC promoted to Cpl
- LAC A Batiuk
- LAC Z Batiuk
- LAC French
- LAC Hogan
- LAC C Rousseau
- LAC M Rousseau
- LAC Gray
- LAC A Saciuk
- LAC Wood
Cpl promoted to FCpl
- Cpl Dittaro
- Cpl French
- Cpl Green
- Cpl Whitfield-Barbeau
FCpl promoted to Sgt
- FCpl Langevin
Sgt promoted to FSgt
- Sgt Donaldson
- Sgt Crabbe