The members of Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 347 Avenger, based in Ashcroft, had to take some time off during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of cadets dwindled to three, but membership is now on the upswing thanks to some dedicated volunteers and the cadets themselves.
The corps was set to head to Halifax, Nova Scotia in May 2020 for the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II, when the pandemic put paid to their travel plans. During the next two years the corps was quiet, but late last year it began returning to business, and new commanding officer Slt. Nichole Hare says that former commanding officer Gerry Sask, a driving force behind the formation of 347 Avenger in 2002, was instrumental in bringing the numbers back up.
“Gerry Sask has been a rock star,” says Hare, who replaced commanding officer Darrin Curran when the latter retired in June 2022. “We ended the last year with three cadets, and come the first day in September he had brought 10 more.”
In October, 11 of the cadets travelled to Vernon Army Cadet Camp along with more than 50 other Army, Air, and Sea cadets to take part in abseil training, summer biathlon, and land navigation events.
It was a busy and activity-filled learning weekend that was also full of fun. Cadets were up at sunrise doing physical training, and after breakfast were right into learning navigation with a GPS and summer biathlon skills, along with marksmanship.
The highlight of the weekend was the abseil tower. Cadets learned ground school skills and safety, then abseiled off the 41-foot tower under the watchful eyes of three adult instructors, with the abseiling continuing well into the evening hours. Cadets also had a chance to visit the BC Dragoons armoury, learn about their regiment, and view their vehicles and equipment.
“It was an excellent Tri-Service weekend,” says Capt. Tammy Hall, Commanding Officer of the Kamloops Army Cadet Corp. “Cadets were afforded the opportunity to reach outside their comfort zone and try something new in a safe environment.”
Hare says that the event was a first for the Ashcroft Sea Cadets. “Normally we have to stay in the Sea Cadet lane, and abseiling and navigation are more an Army Cadet thing. But because of COVID and cancelling parades and things, we were being encouraged to go out and work together and do activities.
“There was physical fitness and exercises, and we checked out the museum and range, and did navigation and abseiling and some fun night games. The young cadets were all mixed up into teams and played an evasion game, where the goal was to not get caught and find and collect glowsticks that the senior cadets were guarding. If they talked or were caught moving they were out. It was basically Capture the Flag.”
Hare says that the turnout for the group’s events has been spectacular. They were back at the Remembrance Day service in Ashcroft, and Hare says they’re hoping to be able to join in more events like the one in Vernon, with different elements and in different locations, if they can get approval and make everyone’s schedules work.
The Canadian Cadet organization is open to all youth aged 12-18. Hare joined the cadets in Kamloops when she was 17, and was there for 1.5 years before she aged out when she turned 19.
“The first part of the year as a cadet was learning like everyone else, and then I got promoted. In my second year I went above and beyond to get as far in the program as I could, with the help of officers in Kamloops. Because I was older than everybody else they allowed me to study phase books and test to see if I had the knowledge to move on to the next rank.”
Hare had attained the rank of Petty Officer Second Class when she aged out. In 2011 she started as a civilian volunteer, got her paperwork processed, got tested, and was welcomed into the Canadian Armed Forces as an officer. She was with the Kamloops Sea Cadets until 2015, when she moved to Dawson Creek and joined the Air Cadets.
“Then I came back to Kamloops and needed a cadet home. Everywhere in Kamloops was full, so I joined Ashcroft. Then Darrin left, and it was a case of either I took over, or it folded.”
Hare says that the corps is hoping to have a nautical weekend in Kelowna, which will feature kayaking, sailing, and other nautical activities. Since long distance travel has still not been approved, the Halifax trip is on hold. “It will probably be a while before we can do that. We still have the funds, and are looking to see what we can do.”
In addition to their cadet activities, members of 347 Avenger can often be seen volunteering and helping out at local events. Hare says that she tries to make the regular drills fun, while still teaching things the cadets need to know.
“After not parading for two years, drill was almost non-existent, so we went over a little every night and did various drills to make it fun, including drills where they were blindfolded and had chairs they had to avoid. I want to do fun, exciting classes that still teach them what they need to know. They spend all day in school, so I don’t want them to come back and do school things. The goal is to keep them having fun and keep them interested.”
She adds while she is the commanding officer, Petty Officers Second Class Monique Kopanyas, Moira Kopanyas, and Zachary Cahoon are the ones who teach the courses.
“They’re the backbone of the cadet program and the leaders of the corps. I’m here to make sure it happens, help supervise and maintain order and keep our cadets safe.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Sea Cadets program or the local corps can contact Hare at Nicole.Hare@cadets.gc.ca.