Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gold Star Expedition - Part 1

Four senior cadets from 3045 Army Cadet Corps were selected to attend the annual Gold Star Expedition in Winnipeg, in late September.  (Gold Star means Year 4 cadets).  I would be their escorting officer.  This would be my first time, as well as theirs, attending the expedition.  I was told that it would be similar to the Silver Star Expedition held in May, but more rigorous.  Prior to departure, I prepared lesson plans for the supply teacher.  I didn’t want boredom to reign in my classroom while I was away.
The four cadets and I flew out on the morning of Thursday, September 21.  They were dressed in civilian clothing and sporting the red & black 3045 hoodies.  I was wearing my digital combat fatigues.  Unfortunately, there weren’t enough cadets from the north to warrant a charter, so we were taking the scenic route to Winnipeg.  (Cadets from Naujaat & Rankin Inlet were also participating).  To get to Winnipeg, we would fly down to Ottawa through Iqaluit, stay the night, and then fly to Winnipeg through Toronto, early the next morning.  On the bright side, I would finally get to see the newly opened Iqaluit Airport terminal!
New Iqaluit Airport Terminal. (September 21, 2017)
We landed in Iqaluit at around noon.  The plane taxied to the big & shiny red terminal and came to a halt.  The new terminal is eight times larger than the old “yellow submarine” terminal.  We disembarked from and walked across the tarmac towards the door marked Gate 4.  I had my camera at the ready.  I immediately noticed the abundance of open space, and large works of art on the walls.  We turned right, then left, and emerged in the main hallway.  The 15 new check in counters were to our left and the Arrivals Hall was to our right.  We proceeded to the Arrivals Hall, passing the gift store, security area, and more works of art.

Iqaluit Airport - Main Hall
Gift Shop.
The Arrivals Hall is a large circular room, complete with benches, a cafĂ©, and four large murals.  One of the murals is the revered Enchanted Owl, painted by the late artist Kenojuak Ashevak in 1960.  Beyond the Arrivals Hall is the Baggage area where passengers can pick up their luggage from two carousels.  I was very impressed by this new building. 
That's a lot of Amazon packages.
I think Kenn Borek Air needs a
larger hangar.
We stayed in the new terminal for about an hour before catching our flight down to Ottawa.  A former cadet, now living in Iqaluit, came to the terminal unannounced to see his old friends.  I briefly spoke with a former student I taught at Inuksuk High School in 2012.  She now works at the airport gift store.  Our flight was slightly delayed because the ground crew had to unload a lot of Amazon packages off the plane.  (Iqaluit residents still qualify for free shipping from Amazon).
Downtown Ottawa.
The plane landed in Ottawa at 5pm.  There wasn’t any snow on the ground and the temperature was hot compared to the north.  The cadets & I exited the terminal and got a ride to the hotel on a shuttle.  The hotel gave us three rooms.  We got a good night’s rest.

My first fidget spinner!
We were back at the airport the next morning.  We were checked in & through security by 6:45am.  The cadets ordered breakfast at Tim Hortons.  While waiting for the cadets, a random traveller walked by me and said, “Thank you for serving.”  “You’re welcome Ma’am,” I replied.  (I was wearing my combat fatigues).  Before getting on the plane to Toronto, I bought my first fidget spinner!  The fidget spinner craze is still going strong in Arctic Bay, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon.
The flight to Toronto was uneventful.  I followed the cadets off the plane, through the jet bridge, and into the Toronto terminal.  I took maybe six steps beyond the gate doors when another random traveller said to me, “Thank you for serving in uniform.”  “You’re welcome, Sir,” I answered.  We found our gate for the Winnipeg flight and waited for about an hour.  I spent the first half of the flight speaking with a former teacher sitting next to me.  She wanted to know about the Canadian cadet program and from where the cadets & I were coming from.  She was surprised to hear that we were travelling from so far away.  (Wearing your military uniform in public attracts may questions and comments).
Lunch at the 17 Wing Mess Hall.
A captain met us at the Winnipeg Airport and drove us to 17 Wing.  It is here where the Regional Cadet Support Unit (Northwest) office is located.  The captain took us to the mess hall for a free lunch.  The cadets from 3055 Naujaat & 3019 Rankin Inlet arrived several hours later.  There were many familiar faces.  Joyful greetings were exchanged between the cadets & officers.  The Commanding Officers of these two corps were also coming along for the trip.

Boxed lunch.
The cadets were formed up and instructed to place their personal belongings in a van.  The cadets were then taken to a nearby CANEX to shop.  The Greyhound bus was running a little late so shopping at the store would keep the cadets distracted.  The captains running the expedition drove out to the staging area in a convoy of vans pulling trailers.  One trailer was loaded with canoes, another was full of cadet & camping equipment.  A short downpour forced us to stay inside the CANEX for several extra minutes.  We moved over to the recreational facility and ate boxed lunches.  The Greyhound bus arrived shortly thereafter.            
On the way to Whiteshell.
The bus transported us to Whiteshell Provincial Park, 130km east of Winnipeg.  It was night time when we arrived at our reserved camp site.  Cadets from a Manitoba cadet corps were there to greet us.  Everyone disembarked and retrieved their personal belongings.  The cadets were divided into groups and instructed where to set up their tents.  The washrooms were marked with glow sticks.  I was lucky enough to be given my own tent for the weekend.  Sleeping bags & air mattresses were given out.  By the time the camp was set up, everyone was tired & sleepy.  Lights out was 11pm.
Everyone was excited about the next day: Saturday.
My tent for the weekend.
To Be Continued . . .

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nunavut Hitmakerz Workshop

Kelly & Thor
Kelly Fraser is an Inuk singer, activist, and motivational speaker from Sanikiluaq.  She became known in the music world for her Inuktitut rendition of the song “Diamonds” by Rihanna.  She recently released her debut album SednaThor Simonsen is a “Danish-Canadian author, artist, designer, music producer, and media consultant.”  He is currently based in Iqaluit, Nunavut.  The two recently came together in 2016 to create Nunavut Hitmakerz, “an initiative specifically designed to engage, inspire, and empower Nunavummiut youth by promoting life and career development opportunities through the arts.”  Their goal is to visit every Nunavut community, at least once.
Hitmakerz officially began its tour in 2016 by visiting Clyde River, Pond Inlet, and Qikiqtarjuaq.  In each community, Kelly & Thor held workshops on song writing, recording, singing, personal storytelling, and understanding the music industry.  A concert, talent show, and community feast were also organized.  They ended each visit by donating a mobile music studio to a local arts organization in the community.
Funding for the tour was provided by the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Culture & Heritage and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.  Due to the success of the first tour, Kelly & Thor worked hard to secure funding for another tour in the fall of 2017.  The lucky five communities were: Arctic Bay, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Cambridge Bay, and Iqaluit. 

Arctic Bay was the first stop on the 2017 tour.  Kelly & Thor were in the community from September 14 to 18.  Posters had been put up in the school and around town in advance.  The concert, talent show, and workshops would all take place at the community hall.  I was only able to attend the final workshop on September 18 due to other commitments.  My students filled me in about the excellent evening concert and talent show.  My students wanted me to enter the talent show but I politely declined.

The workshop began after lunch.  I left a note on my classroom door, telling my students that I would be at the community hall.  I walked to the hall because there wasn’t any snow in town, thus preventing me from using my skidoo.  It would be another week or two before the snow would arrive.  A large circle of chairs was set up in front of a grey table.  The table was actually covered with a black table cloth that displayed the Hitmakerz logo.  Kelly & Thor welcomed everyone and everyone took a seat. 
This last workshop was more about Kelly & Thor talking about what it’s like working in the music industry, how to get started, and what is needed to turn your musical passions into a successful career.  The workshop was conducted in Inuktitut & English.  Kelly & Thor also sang several of their newest songs of their latest albums.  Kelly sang “Sedna”, “Looking For a Seal”, and “Fight For The Rights.”  Thor sang “Friends Are Free”, “Calling 867”, and “Traintracks.”  The live performances were well received.
At the end of the workshop, the people in attendance were given a survey to complete.  The Hitmakerz wanted to know what people liked about the workshops and what could be improved.  I thanked Kelly & Thor for donating the mobile music studio to the school.  The kit includes: a Mac laptop, microphone, headphones, a mini-synthesizer keyboard, and small mixing board.  The equipment would be kept in my classroom.  My homework now was to find out who was interested in using the equipment and create a studio recording schedule.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Community Feast & Operation Hill Top 17

Community Feast. September 14, 2017.
An evening community feast was held on Thursday, September 14.  The community hall was packed with people, excited and eager to get their hands on freshly caught country foods.  The crew of the Kiviuq I, a fishing vessel, were giving out free char, muskox, halibut, lobster, and narwhal to the people of Arctic Bay.  (The staff of Inuujaq School visited the Kiviuq I in 2015).  Large blue tarps occupied the centre of the hall and the country foods sat on top.  From what I could see, there was enough food to feed the entire town.

Everyone came armed with plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and ulus.  The feast began with the Hunters & Trappers Organization thanking the crew of the Kiviuq I for harvesting and donating all the food.  An elder blessed the food and then everyone charged into the centre.  I didn’t stand back; I joined in the mad dash to get the best pieces.  You’re not allowed to push & shove.  I was able to get: a large piece of muskox, one small lobster, and two small halibut steaks.  All the steaks were vacuum packed.
Second Bridge (right).
The first Field Training eXercise (FTX) of the 2017-18 training year took place over the weekend of September 15 – 17.  The junior cadets of 3045 Army Cadet Corps were heading out to the Second Bridge to complete a 7km hike and also learn survival skills.  A few senior cadets were tagging along to assist me in keeping the FTX running smoothly.  The FTX is codenamed, Operation Hill Top.  We’ve been staging the FTX at the Second Bridge since 2013 out of convenience.  The bridge is part of the Road to Nanisivik and if an emergency were to occur, anyone can be quickly driven to Arctic Bay in the emergency vehicle. 
Following the same preparation procedures as before – because they work – the cadets prepared their sleeping bags, and checked the tents & Coleman stoves a week in advance.  The adult staff also gave the cadets personal kit lists – a piece of paper that stated what they should bring for the weekend.  I borrowed Frank’s truck and drove out to the Second Bridge to check out the conditions of the road and camping area.  Last year, we had to contend with an icy road and an incoming blizzard.  This time, there were no ice patches on the part of the road that descends towards the Second Bridge and there was barely any snow around the camping area.  The temperature was surprisingly cool even though the bridge is many feet above sea level.  These signs reassured me that the weather conditions would be different.
Roll Call.
RCMP Trucks.
Everyone assembled in front of Inuujaq School’s gym on Friday, September 15.  The time was 7pm.  Even though the temperature was higher than usual, I still arrived wearing my Canada Goose parka.  I was sweating but I didn’t want to take any chances.  The weather can change at any moment; especially in the mountains.  A senior cadet took roll call.  The cadets then loaded their personal kit in several trucks.  The local RCMP had volunteered to provide transportation to the Second Bridge.  The cadets divided themselves up and found a seat in a truck.  I drove Frank’s truck.  Frank and his grandson had spent much of the day transporting the corps-owned equipment to the Second Bridge and setting up the supply tent.  The drive to the Second Bridge took about 20 minutes.

Everyone disembarked from the vehicles and removed their personal items from the trucks.  The RCMP wished everyone a good weekend and returned to Arctic Bay.  The cadets went to work setting up their tents.  The two Canadian Rangers providing predator control brought their own tent and pet dog.  We would have a guard dog for the weekend.  The male cadets pitched a white Fort McPherson tent and the females pitched a green Arctic five-person tent.  The cadets used large flattened cardboard boxes as flooring before setting up their air mattresses & sleeping bags.
Cardboard flooring.
Guard dog.
I held a quick briefing with the cadets, once they had their living arrangements in order.  I welcomed them to Operation Hill Top 17 and explained the program and the camp rules.  I also pointed where the boundaries were.  I answered several questions before dismissing the cadets to their tents.  Everyone had an evening snack break before going to bed.
Saturday, September 16, 2017.
Frank's Truck.
Reveille was 8:00am the next morning.  I was glad I brought my Canada Goose parka because the weather had changed.  Snow had fallen during the night.  There were low clouds in the valley and the temperature had dropped.  Breakfast consisted of American made Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs).  Each tent was given a garbage bag to collect trash.  We didn’t want any unwanted visitors.  Once breakfast was complete, I taught classes in survival skills, cloud formations, and radio communication procedures.  I had to alter many things in the survival lesson because the content primarily focuses on the southern Canadian landscape.  By lunch time, the clouds had disappeared and the sun came out.
Three cadets hiked up a nearby hill before lunchtime.

Arctic Bay in the distance.
The 7km hike began after lunch.  We would walk from the Second Bridge to the First Bridge.  The second-year junior cadets were required to carry packed rucksacks.  The first-year cadets were not.  We packed juice boxes, granola bars, toilet paper, and garbage bags.  One ranger, armed with a .303 rifle, would walk with us.  Civilian Instructor Reid would drive ahead in a pickup truck.  I gave him a walkie-talkie to stay in contact.  Several cadets chose to use walking poles for the duration of the hike.
Break Time.
The cadets walked as a platoon and did their best to keep to one side of the road.  I explained to them that when they travel down south for the Silver & Gold Star Expeditions, they would be required to do the same, but for more than 7km.  The ground slowly began to change.  The further we walked, the less snow there was.  We took several snack & bathroom breaks.  Since there are no porta-potties around, you just walk behind a hill and go.  It took us about three hours to reach the First Bridge.  I ran ahead to photograph the cadets crossing the bridge.  Everyone was driven back to the camp site.

Building a bonfire.
The cadets were given free time after dinner.  In the evening we had a bonfire.  Two senior cadets brought the wood with the help of their father and his pickup truck.  The Rangers instructed the cadets on how to build the perfect bonfire.  The matches were lit and a small fire was started.  The fire slowly grew in size and by nightfall it was large enough to break out the marshmallows and hot dogs.  We surrounded the fire with our roasting sticks.  We burned as much wood as we could.  When it was time for bed, we dumped a lot of snow on the fire. 
Now that's a bonfire!
Cleaning out the Command/Supply Tent.
Garbage Sweep.
Reveille on Sunday, September 17, was 8:00am.  The were clouds in the sky but the weather wasn’t bad.  I taught classes on how to be a good outdoor leader and how to set up a bivouac site after an MRE-filled breakfast.  We tore down the camp in the late morning.  Two pickup trucks had arrived to assist us in the teardown.  The cadets were instructed to pack up their personal belongings and remove them from their tents.  The tents were then taken down and packed.  Corps-owned equipment was collected and placed in one pickup truck while the other was filled with personal belongings.  The cadets did a garbage sweep of the area before piling into the trucks.

There used to be tents here.
The debriefing was held at Frank’s shop.  The corps rents out a sea can to store its equipment & supplies.  Frank, (former commanding officer of 3045), led the debriefing.  We both congratulated the junior cadets for completing the 7km hike and for coming back alive.  Their reward was to help the adult staff put all the corps-owned equipment away.  Their homework was to tumble dry their sleeping bags and wash the inner liners.  The cadets were then driven home.  Operation Hilltop 17 was another successful FTX.     

Frank's Debriefing