More than 50 youth from the 2520 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps 71 Battery Royal Canadian Army Cadets were served a Christmas dinner of turkey with all the trimmings by officers and staff on Dec. 19.
The army corps celebrated their fourth annual Christmas Dinner following years of military tradition dating back to the 18th century, wherein the youngest member of lowest rank trades places with the commanding officer during the Christmas meal.
True to tradition, 2520’s commanding officer, Capt. Rob Lussier, awarded the captain’s shoulder boards to a surprised Colin Chelkowski, 12, the youngest cadet to join in 2012.
Sitting in the CO’s chair as "Honourary Commanding Officer" for the day, Chelkowski shared the dignitaries’ table in the company of his commander Lussier, as well as CFB Shilo base commander Lt.-Col. Richard Goodyear, base regimental Sgt. Maj. Jenson, Col. Don Berry representing the Army Cadet League of Manitoba, and Al Dunham, president of Brandon’s Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Unit 10.
"I was a cadet myself, some 23 years ago," said Goodyear, a native of Newfoundland, who joined the Canadian Forces in 1990 as a member of the Air Reserve in Gander.
He transferred to regular force in 1991, graduating from the Royal Military College in Kingston in 1996 with a bachelor of commerce and has served as base commander of CFB Shilo since June 2011.
"The cadet movement is a fantastic organization. Take every chance you get to embrace the opportunities you have here," Goodyear said.
Referring to the various challenging activities these youth participate in, Goodyear praised the benefits of the program.
"Any time that you do something that is even remotely difficult, it forms strong bonds and sometimes the cadets (program) can be a little bit tough but at the end its always a lot of fun; and the bonds you form as cadets will endure for a long time — the rest of your lives."
The Christmas celebration concluded with the awards presentations where Master Warrant Officer Mathew Meeches was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer, the highest rank a cadet can achieve for leadership excellence.
Both Warrant Officer Kyler Chelkowski and Warrant Officer Heather Windsor were promoted to Master Warrant Officer and each received the Army Cadet Long Service Medal for the completion of four successful years with Royal Canadian Army Cadets.
The Commanding Officer’s Commendation plaque was presented to Lt. Dane Nickolson of CFB Shilo’s Military Police, for his outstanding support and performance in the organizing and formation of Shilo Troop of 2520 RCACC.
Nickolson has a unique interest in the Shilo cadet program as he has been involved in cadets, both as a youth and as a staff member, since he was 12 years old in Victoria, B.C. He is another shining example of how the cadet organization grooms a young person to become a leader in society to impact his community.
Goodyear summarized it perfectly.
"The courses that you have, the friends that you’ll make here, the disciplines that you learn in cadets, will serve you for the rest of your lives."