By Andrew Warden
From the December 2015 (Volume 22 Issue 11)
One of the greatest challenges in any youth program is keeping the participants interested. In this respect, the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet program is no exception. One of the best things that our program offers is exciting, hands-on experience, with unique opportunities to get Cadets diving below water.
While Air Cadets fly and Army Cadets participate in expeditions, Sea Cadets are normally known for their sailing. While this remains a core part of the Sea Cadet experience, scuba diving is quickly becoming a popular optional activity for Cadets. Not only is it exciting and adventurous, but in many cases, it awards the Cadets a qualification that is recognized around the world.
There are several different types of scuba training that Sea Cadets can participate in. They range from an introduction to scuba with no awarded qualifications to Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certified open water diving certifications. We also offer more advanced training that allows PADI-certified divers to gain more in-depth experience and skills.
In a world of virtual systems and simulators, it is becoming less common for youth to be given real-world experiences, and scuba definitely helps with that. While this is not a mandatory or core aspect of Cadet training, both the Navy League and DND have recognized that this has become a great optional activity for Sea Cadets.
An excellent example of Sea Cadets scuba diving can be found in the surrounding areas of Edmonton, Alberta. Cadets from RCSCC NOOTKA, RESOLUTE, and CAMPBELTOWN have participated in both introduction to scuba diving courses, as well as open water dive certification training. The intro to scuba course is offered to junior Cadets and involves both classroom sessions on the principles of diving, followed by some fun, hands-on experience in a local pool. Its purpose is to familiarize younger Cadets with scuba diving and hopefully encourage further future training. Those who successfully complete the introductory component can then move on to the open-water dive certifications offered by the Cadet Corps.
The open-water dive certifications offered to Sea Cadets is an incredible experience. While the courses are organized by the Cadet Corps, they are delivered by certified civilian dive masters and instructors and follow the normal structure of in-class and in-pool portions. While this is relatively standard for anyone wishing to get his or her certification, it is what comes at the end of the training that is a unique experience for Sea Cadets.
When the time comes to get in the real water and conduct the open-water test, the Cadets travel to beautiful Jasper, Alberta, to perform their tests in alpine lakes. Although quite cold, this is a truly unique experience which helps push the Cadets to their limits. Lieutenant(N) Jason Finkbeiner, who is a commanding officer of one of the Cadet Corps, explained that by bringing the Cadets to an alpine lake to conduct their final tests, it helps show them what they can accomplish.
After diving in a lake only a few degrees above zero — albeit with a seven-millimetre-thick wetsuit — any other dive will be that much easier. Even during the tests in the cold waters, staff try make sure to keep things fun for the Cadets and have them participate in games while under water, such as having a pumpkin carving competition. This definitely an adventure! How many young Canadians can say that they went scuba diving in the Rockies?
Essential to the Cadet program is to show youth that they can always improve themselves, and to that end, there are increasingly more examples of advanced scuba opportunities throughout the country. Every summer, the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston is transformed from Canada’s military university to a summer training centre for Sea Cadets called HMCS ONTARIO.
Prior to summer courses starting at the end of last June, eight Sea Cadets arrived in Kingston prepared to participate in improving their scuba skills by learning about underwater photography, navigation, and wreck diving. All eight Cadets who participated in this training had already achieved their open-water dive certification. Over the course of five days, the Cadets participated in a combination of dives that included diving off boats, docks, and walking in from a beach. This opportunity is yet another example of DND and the Navy League of Canada working together to offer amazing opportunities to youth through our programs.
In a world of virtual reality and technological wonders, youth are not often given the opportunity to participate in real, challenging, and adventurous activities. There is an increasing popularity of scuba diving in the Sea Cadet program, which can easily be explained by the amazing things that these Cadets are able to do through this fun and unique opportunity. Whether it’s in your local pool, in Lake Ontario, or in an alpine lake in the Rockies, Sea Cadets are truly diving to new adventures!