They marched in three columns; tidy and well-groomed, with uniforms pressed, boots polished, eyes looking straight ahead and a sense of pride and accomplishment beaming from every face.
The 90 young Aboriginal men and women were participating at the annual Poundmaker’s Powwow, as members of the Canadian Forces-sponsored, Bold Eagle Program, one of three initiatives designed to help young Indigenous Canadians prepare for a life in the military.
“This is indeed a proud group of young men and women,” noted John McDonald, the Recruitment Coordinator for Bold Eagle in Alberta. “These young participants will be graduating soon; some will go on to other things and some will continue to pursue a career in the military.”Treaty 8 Grand Chief Steve Courtoreille, a former soldier who began his basic training in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, in 1975, addressed the Bold Eagle troops.
“I want to acknowledge the young people that are here in uniform today,” he said. “Through the Bold Eagle Program you will learn a lot about discipline, about respect and about yourselves. I congratulate you, I thank-you and I wish you all well in everything you do.”
Bold Eagle is a partnership between the Department of National Defence and First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and citizens residing in western Canada, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Northwestern Ontario.
Also attending the 42nd Annual Poundmaker’s Powwow was Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Grant Greyeyes, a career soldier with 33 years on the job and since 2014 the Aboriginal Advisor to the Commander of the Canadian Army and Champion for Aboriginal Peoples within the Canadian Armed Forces, Lt. General Marquis Hainse CMM, MSC, CD.
“Candidates accepted into the program become Primary Reserve members,” explained MWO Greyeyes. “Once they have successfully graduated from the program they remain on the books (excused duty and training) but do return home to their communities. If they choose to transfer to the Reserve Force or wish to join the Regular Force they will have to undergo additional basic training and meet the requirements of the career choices they wish to pursue. The Bold Eagle Program is a life-changing experience that will help enable every successful candidate to achieve their goals in whatever career path he or she chooses.”
McDonald, 82, is an army veteran who served for 38 years as a member of the RCA (Royal Canadian Artillery) and RCEME (Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers); he’s been involved with the Bold Eagle Program for the past eight years.
“Bold Eagle gives Canadian Aboriginal youth 16 and up, who have completed Grade 10 (and are still receiving an education) or higher, the opportunity to participate in a structured program that can help them decide whether or not they wish to pursue a career in the military.”
Whether these young men and women choose to continue to pursue such a career is up to the individual,” he added. “Of course those who decide to accept the challenge of pursuing a military career will require further basic training and evaluation, but determined and qualified candidates who do enlist will find the Canadian Forces to be a rewarding occupation.”
“The program, taught by professional soldiers, helps develop physical fitness, self-discipline, self confidence, teamwork and leadership skills,” explained McDonald. “The first part of the program introduces the candidates to a four-day Cultural Camp that is administered by Aboriginal Elders and staff with the intent of facilitating the transition to military training and life.”
The Cultural Camp is instructed in a fashion that is beneficial to all Aboriginal backgrounds by focusing on the common traditions and spiritual components unique to Aboriginal culture. It also helps provide the foundation to ensure successful completion of the military training phase.
“Many Bold Eagle applicants have never been off the reserve, or never been to major city. We also have applicants from the cities who’ve never experienced this type of program or the military-styled training it embraces. The Cultural Camp eases the transition and teaches such things as time management, orderliness, cleanliness and how to work together as a team.”
Bold Eagle participants are taught by Canadian Forces instructors.
“The military training phase is conducted over five weeks and focuses on basic recruit training,” explained MWO Grant Greyeyes. “The skills taught include the necessary knowledge to enable one to function in a military environment. The training includes instruction in areas such as weapons handling, outdoor field craft, military drill, first aid, and navigation using a map and compass.”
Other activities include a day long career fair that helps expose candidates to the numerous career and education opportunities in the Canadian Forces. Bold Eagle members also attend at least one local area powwow. Participants who successfully complete the Bold Eagle Program are offered the opportunity to continue employment in the Primary Reserve (part-time) with a Reserve unit near their home, or even the Regular Force (full-time).
“There are many benefits to joining the Bold Eagle Program,” added McDonald. “The opportunity to travel, meet new people, take on new challenges, and find out more about your capabilities are just some examples. In addition, recruits are paid during their six weeks of training.”
Where applicable, completion of the training can also be used towards earning high school work experience credits. The Bold Eagle Program is limited to 92 candidates from across western Canada and north-western Ontario. Transportation to and from Camp Wainwright is provided as are military clothing and equipment, accommodations and meals.
In all, the Canadian Forces offers three Summer Training Programs that combine military lifestyle with cultural awareness: Bold Eagle, Raven and Black Bear. Raven is the Navy’s summer program for Aboriginal Peoples from across Canada. Participants train in Esquimalt, British Columbia. Black Bear is an Army training program for Aboriginal Peoples residing throughout Canada; training takes place in Oromocto, New Brunswick.
Canada’s soldiers, sailors and airmen are involved in such things as defending Canadian territory and maintaining Canada’s sovereignty by providing land surveillance and combat-ready forces. They contribute to the collective defence of North America, provide armed and unarmed assistance to civil authorities when needed to maintain public order and security and assist provincial and other authorities with natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, storms, forest fires and other emergencies. They support Canadian interests abroad by providing forces to the UN, NATO, and other operations involving more than two nations, serving as peacekeepers and providing humanitarian assistance.
Applications for Bold Eagle’s 2016 Summer Camp should be submitted by April 30. If you’d like to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, today is the day to inquire. Certain documentation will be required; all information can be obtained on the Bold Eagle website at: www.army.forces.gc.ca/boldeagle.