By Kirk Starratt
For the first time, the Aboriginal Entry Program is being hosted by Camp Aldershot and the experience has allowed participants to test the waters of a career in the Canadian forces.
Christine Dedam, originally from Listuguj, Quebec, currently lives in Wolfville. She was one of 29 participants in the program and said she is interested in a career as a med tech through the military. She said it’s been an amazing experience and feels fortunate to be able to test the waters of a possible military career.
“When I first started, I was here just for an open mind, hence the entry program,” she said. “I didn’t want to just jump in.”
Participants took part in a stealth exercise Oct. 17, one of several exercises included in the program. Dedam said that as soon as you heard the “bang,” instinct took over. People dropped, got low, didn’t make any sudden movements, crawled slowly and tried not to be spotted. The goal was to reach a pre-determined base without getting caught.
Participant Mitch McKay of Greenwood said he has loved the experience so far. Wearing camouflaged face paint and fatigues, he was among the participants inching their way through the woods as part of the stealth exercise that morning.
“I got to do tonnes of new stuff I wouldn’t have been able to experience,” he said about the entry program. “I gained a lot of knowledge here.”
He said the most challenging part of the stealth exercise was getting over the branches, crawling through thorn bushes and the mosquitos.
McKay said he plans to join the Air Force as an air weapons tech. He hopes to be able to someday work in his hometown of Greenwood at 14 Wing.
The Canadian Armed Forces Aboriginal Entry Program is a special recruiting program that offers full-time regular force training and employment opportunities to qualified Aboriginal people across Canada. The program offers candidates interested in military careers the opportunity to learn more about military life before they decide whether or not to join. The three-week pre-recruit training course runs until Oct. 26, culminating in a graduation ceremony.
Participants experience portions of the basic military qualification, such as morning inspections, daily physical fitness and sports, navigation with compass and maps, basic weapons training and military drill. They are given information about military careers and entry plans. They become more familiar with Canadian Armed Forces environments through activities such as ship tours, visits to air force squadrons and living in field conditions.
Captain Wayne Hearn said participants got to spend a full day in Halifax with the Navy, a full day in Greenwood with the Air Force and a full day in Gagetown with the Army. This gives them exposure to all three elements of the Canadian Forces and to the basics of a military career.
“(Recruiters) spend time with the candidates in the evening and prepare them to write the Canadian Forces Aptitude Test,” Hearn said. “Then they will meet with a military career counsellor who will advise them what trades they qualify for.”
Hearn said he and his staff have thoroughly enjoyed hosting the program at Aldershot for the first time.
“It is radically different from what we do on a regular basis, but the excitement and the enthusiasm of my staff has been outstanding,” he said.
To watch a video featuring the stealth exercise held as part of the program and interviews and see a slideshow of photos, visit www.kingscountynews.ca.
Christine Dedam of Wolfville takes part in a stealth exercise as part of the Canadian Armed Forces Aboriginal Entry Program at Camp Aldershot. – Kirk Starratt, www.kingscountynews.ca