Some young salts joined the Remembrance Day parade in Queen Charlotte last Sunday — the Haida Gwaii Sea Cadets.
Open to islands youth ages 12 to 18, the free program started in late September and already the new cadets have toured a Coast Guard ship.
Later this school year they will all go off-island for a pair of weekend sailing courses, and this summer a few cadets may go down to the HMCS Quadra training centre in Comox for a basic sailing summer camp — one that could eventually lead to more advanced training, a summer on a tall ship, even an international exchange.
Terry Gillespie, a local RCMP sergeant who grew up going to Air Cadets, is the lead corps instructor.
“It’s a really, really good program,” Gillespie said, noting that while sea cadets specialize in sailing and seamanship skills, their main goal is to learn how to be leaders and good citizens.
“As the cadets advance through the program, they become responsible for leading the corps, and teaching younger cadets,” he said.
From age 12 on, Gillespie went to the Comox training centre every summer — it’s where he got his pilot’s licence, and a jump start on flying commercially before he joined the RCMP.
Cadets is also where Gillespie took up the bagpipes, which he played during the wreath-laying ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 11.
Gillespie said there is a wide range of summer camp courses cadets can take, and senior cadets can work as instructors and travel to training centres all across the country.
Cadets learn about Canada’s military, and all their travel and regular programs are paid for by the Department of National Defence. But cadets are not part of the military, nor is it the only type of career they’re encouraged to try.
With some fundraising, Gillespie hopes to offer some extra skill-building activities for the Haida Gwaii cadets, such as a scuba diving.
Sixteen youth and two corps instructors have joined so far, including some cadets from Tlell and Port Clements. They now meet Thursday nights at GidGalang Kuuyas Naay.
“I’m really passionate about it, so I’m hoping I can make it stick and get some more people on board,” Gillespie said.
For more information, check out the Haida Gwaii Sea Cadets on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.