Students at the Royal Military College (RCM) have returned to Kingston, Ont., and received their cap badges — a small badge worn on uniform or headgear to identify a service member’s branch.
There are close to 230 first-year officer cadets now at the college, and that includes nearly 20 Indigenous students who are preparing to take a one-year program to develop their leadership potential.
“I was a little skeptical; I didn’t know if I should apply to university or take on this opportunity. It took some courage and I’m really enjoying my time so far,” said officer cadet Shane Vincent from Nova Scotia.
The Indigenous officer cadets have been at RMC for just over three weeks now, and on Friday morning, they received their cap badges.
The students are a part of the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year, also known as ALOY.
“I just wanted a new experience and I knew that I wanted to become a military officer. It was just the perfect fit” said officer cadet Dawn-Marie L’Heureux, who hails from Southern Alberta.
The college says the badging ceremony program started in 2008 and it focuses on academic education, military skills, athletics and cultural awareness.
Third-year officer cadet Kristian Maple is a former ALOY student.
Maple explained that ALOY is an opportunity for Indigenous students to learn to become students and to decide if they have a taste for military life.
“They certainly have the option to study here at the college, or anywhere else. Sometimes they decide that they don’t like the idea of academics as part of their life so they’ll move on to something else,” Maple said.
While a career in the military may not be for everyone, students say they will be able to walk away from the program better prepared for their futures.
“What I’m really passionate about is learning kinesiology” said Vincent.
“I really want to go to university to have a bachelors in kinesiology and I’m thinking that the military may be able to pave my way. So that is a good possibility that I am looking into. If not, I’m thinking of a civilian university,” explained Vincent.
L’Heureaux plans to stick through the military college’s program.
“It just opens another door in my life that hadn’t been opened before and I will most likely go through that door and become a forensic pathologist in the Canadian Armed Forces,” said L’Heureaux.
Maple says this year’s group of ALOY students is diverse with First Nations, Metis, as well as Inuit students, arriving from all parts of Canada.