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Iqaluit air cadets search for commanding officer, Naujaat army cadets soon to have theirs

The 30-member air cadet squadron in Iqaluit has lost its commanding officer Lt (Navy) Heather Clark, and has had to put a halt to some of its programming until positions are once again fully staffed.

"We parade on Tuesday nights. We were doing fencing on Wednesdays. We were doing ground school and biathlon on Thursday nights. Then we were doing a drop-in, where we do sports and everything else on Saturday afternoons," said Clark.

"We have been looking for somebody but it just became more apparent in May-ish because my husband and I decided that we were relocating to a different part of the country. We have a couple other officers but we don't have anybody who can actually take over the unit at the moment because a lot of the staff do duty travel, or have work commitments."

795 Iqaluit Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets is a busy group, with activities usually taking place several nights a week. Activities have ramped down while the search for a new commanding officer takes place. Here they marched in the parade in a V-formation carrying the flags of confederation, and won the City of Iqaluit's award for top youth group at the 2017 Canada Day parade. From left rear to right rear: LAC (Leading Air Cadet) Simon Leblanc, LAC Christina Qavavou, LAC Matthew Nowdluk, Cpl Laura Nowdluk, Cpl Gooteleah Ecko, Sgt Shaun Nauyuk, aqadron commander WO1 (Warrant Officer First Class) Kaya Natar, Sgt Joy Nowdluk, Cpl Jennifer Ellsworth, LAC Declan Robertson, Cpl Amina Geetah, Cpl Liam Ellsworth, LAC Mackenzie O’Dell and LAC Claire Hooey. Centre back: WO2 (Warrant Officer Second Class) D. Keziz Calamayan with 795's colours.
NNSL file photo

Clark says it's sometimes hard to find someone who can make the time commitment.

For now, Tuesday night and Saturday afternoon activities will continue.

Nunavut also has four army cadet corps, in Arctic Bay, Rankin Inlet, Naujaat and Cambridge Bay. Captain Erin McKinlay is a zone training officer, whose job it is to liaise with cadet corps and ensure they each have the support needed to run programs at the local level.

When the Naujaat cadets lost their commanding officer in 2018, McKinlay, who is based in Winnipeg, stepped in.

"They had a lot of community support and lots of cadet involvement. And they had volunteers who wanted to become officers. In order to facilitate their carrying on for that year, I took them over at a distance," explained McKinlay, who has since travelled to Naujaat five times.

"In between, I managed the staff. Weekly, we would speak electronically and have a group chat."

Currently, a Naujaat resident is completing their officer enrollment, and once that's done McKinlay will hand over command. She says the community should have officers in the next couple of months.

"The kids did not miss out on any of the opportunities the program has," she said.

The Naujaat corps has roughly 40 cadets and meet once a week in the evening for a normal training night, which includes classes, drills, as well as leadership and citizenship training.

In 2018, Rankin Inlet's corps similarly lost its commanding officer Lt. Dorothy Tootoo, who was at the helm for 11 years. When Iqaluit's commanding officer Lt. (Navy) Matthew Ayres moved to Rankin, he took over those duties.

"Arctic Bay right now is run by a school teacher so we're really conscious of making sure we're recruiting all the time for more staff members. It's an ongoing problem whether you're in the North or not," said McKinlay.

Meanwhile, Iqaluit has had a very healthy and very active cadet corps with lots of participation, she said.

"All the staff sort of became unavailable at the same time. It's unfortunate but it happens. But they have a lot of volunteers and a really strong base," McKinlay said. "We're looking to do something similar to Naujaat, which is having someone coordinate from a distance in the interim while we get some more people into uniform to take over the cadet corps locally."

McKinlay said interested parties do not have to have any background with cadets, or the military.

"All they need to do is want to learn and work with kids," she said.

"Anyone can join to be a CIC (cadet instructor cadre) officer, we just have to do the enrollment paperwork. Nothing holds you back. You don't have to do a fitness test, or all of this military training. The training is how to work with kids and deliver our programs.

"It's not as daunting as everyone thinks it might be."

In the meantime, a zone training officer in the south will oversee Iqaluit's volunteers.