Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Change of Command Parade

February 15, 2017.  The day had finally arrived. 
I was feeling excited but also nervous.  I was entering a new phase in my career as a CIC officer. 
(CIC stands for Cadet Instructor Cadre and is a branch of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves.  The primary duty of CIC officers is “the safety, supervision, administration, and training of Royal Canadian Sea, Army, and Air Cadets.”)
I joined the CIC in 2013, being officially sworn in as an officer cadet on November 11, in Arctic Bay.  The first cadet corps I worked for as a CIC officer is 3045 Army, Canada’s most northern cadet corps.  I worked in the capacities of second-in-command (2IC) and training officer.  I took courses online and completed basic officer training to obtain the necessary qualifications to be promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant (2Lt).  But I was also being prepared, by the commanding officer (CO), Lt. May, to take command of the corps because he was nearing retirement.
In the months leading up to February 15, Lt. May taught me the ins & outs of running a cadet corps.  I always saw myself being in charge of a cadet corps, but at the rank of 2Lt.?  Never.  I was thinking much further in the future, because COs are usually Captains or Majors.  But, I was reassured by May & our superiors in Winnipeg, that there are cases where corps located in remote areas need to rely on what is available to them.  So, I guess, I was the officer to see 3045 stay afloat.  Canada has already lost quite a few cadet corps north of the 60th parallel, mostly due to there not being adults willing to take “the reins.”  I was and still am immensely grateful for the guidance and support of Lt. May & the Regional Cadet Support Unit (RCSU) in Winnipeg.
A Change of Command Parade was organized and the RCSU in Winnipeg sent Cpt. Aastrom with the proper documentation and to overseer the proceedings.  I met him last year during the Silver Star Training Expedition.  Lt. May & I picked him up at the airport and drove him to the former bed & breakfast building.  The bed & breakfast is used by the local Tangmaarvik Inn when its building is full.  Surprisingly, this was my first time inside the bed & breakfast and the interior is big.  The building is a mini-mansion with about six bedrooms.  We had a meeting with Cpt. Aastom the night before the parade to get all the necessary affairs in order so that the transition would go smoothly.
Unknown to Lt. May, the staff of 3045 and community members had planned a proper send off for his many years of service in the CIC & in the community.  Pictures, letters, videos, and gifts were collected from various sources.  We would also be celebrating his birthday.  We all remained tight-lipped on what was to come.
Free photos after the parade!
The cadets prepared for the parade by reviewing the necessary drill movements, cleaning & ironing their uniforms, and polishing their parade boots.  The cadet platoon commander reviewed the drill commands and led the cadets through several rehearsals.  I also made sure my dress uniform was ready for the big occasion. 

On the evening of February 15th, Inuujaq School’s gym was transformed into a parade square.  Chairs, tables, flags, sponsor banners, and photographs were set up along the gym walls.  I personally set up a projector in one of the corners, displaying past pictures of Lt. May working at the cadet corps.  People began to arrive a little after 6:15pm and by 6:30, there was a large audience.
March Past.
The parade began with the officers, Cpt. Aastrom, Lt. May, and I, marching into the gym.  Aastrom was the guest reviewing officer for the parade.  He, I, and Ranger Ejangiaq inspected the cadets on parade.  Clare Kines was hired by the corps to take pictures.  The cadets did a March Past after the inspections.

Cadets on Parade.
Captain Aastrom presents
a t-shirt to a Fall Biathlon winner.
Cpt. Aastrom was given the floor to say a few words.  He introduced himself and stated that this was his first time travelling to Nunavut.  He thanked the cadets & audience for coming to the first official change of command parade in the corps’s 25-year history.  He also encouraged members of the community to consider volunteering at the cadet corps and/or enlist in the CIC. 

Biathlon Team.
The parade moved on to the Awards section.  First, the Fall Biathlon winners were called to the front to receive their prizes. (The corps held a biathlon competition last October). Captain Aastrom presented t-shirts & army styled wallets to the lucky cadets.  Next, the Biathlon Team was called to the front to be acknowledged for their participation in the territorial competition that was held in Whitehorse in January.  The corps also acknowledged cadet Tilley, Dylan for being selected to participate in the upcoming National Biathlon Competition in Valcartier, Quebec at the end of February.  He is the first cadet from Arctic Bay to be selected for the national competition. 
Lt May speaking about the Marksmanship Team.
Captain Aastrom handing a
PT badge to a cadet.
Next came the awarding of marksmanship badges.  There are four levels to attain in the cadet program.  Level 1 is the lowest and Level 4 is the highest.  Civilian Instructor Reid presented the badges.  Lt. May called out the newly created Marksmanship Team to be acknowledged by the audience and to let everyone know that they would be getting ready for a marksmanship competition in two months.  I concluded the Awards section of the parade by handing out physical fitness (PT) badges.  PT tests are held once every month and depending on their results, cadets can earn Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Excellence badges. 
Me speaking to the audience.
Me signing the Change of Command
The moment was finally here.  Captain Aastrom produced three Change of Command Certificates that needed to be signed.  I held my breath and took out a pen.  Clare Kines took pictures of the three officers signing the documents.  I didn’t exhale until Aastrom lifted one of the certificates in the air and said, “Now it’s official.”  An applause followed.  I was now the commanding officer (CO) of 3045 Army Cadet Corps, Canada’s most northern cadet corps.
"Now it's official."
Lt. May has one last group photo
with the cadets.
The last part of the parade was devoted to saying thank you to Lt. May for his many years of service, and to wish him a safe & happy retirement.  I read a prepared letter from an officer in Iqaluit who worked with Lt. May on many occasions.  Next, we played two videos addressed to Lt. May.  The first video was from his daughter, playing the guitar and singing Happy Birthday to him.  The second video was from 3019 Army Cadet Corps in Rankin Inlet, wishing the former CO a well retirement & Happy Birthday.
I. Swoboda leads everyone in a standing ovation for Lt. May.
The local social worker, I. Swoboda, took over and gave a short speech about her many years of knowing & working with Lt. May.  She then presented two gifts: professionally done portraits of him.  She then concluded her presentation by leading everyone in a standing ovation. 
My first salute as the new CO of 3045.
The cadets were applauded by the audience at the end of parade.  Everyone headed over to the reception table for snacks.  I quickly took a photo of the large cake that was specially made for the occasion.  People personally thanked Lt. May for his time as CO, and congratulated me for being chosen to take over.  I also personally thanked Lt. May for his time as CO and for helping me prepare for the top job.  Deep down, I knew a lot of hard work and responsibilities were ahead of me.  But now was a time to celebrate. 
A new chapter in the corps’s history begins. 

Thank you Lt. May for your hard work & devotion to 3045 Army Cadet Corps.
 *Thank You Clare Kines for taking photos of the parade.          

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