Regimental Mess Dinner a formal affair with a purpose

A member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets escorts guest of honour Joyce Fiddler (right) of the ANAVETS to her seat at the head table during the Cadets Mess Dinner on Saturday evening. The dinner is an annual tradition the cadets put on hold during COVID-19. They were grateful for the chance to resume their regular ceremony.

The Army Cadets, Air Cadets and Sea Cadets in Prince Albert got together on Saturday evening in the basement of the ANAVETS Club downtown for the fourth annual Regimental Service Mess Dinner. The event was hosted by the 390 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and serves as both a formal exercise and socializing exercise.

Saturday’s event was the first the Cadets have held since 2020, when they temporarily shut down due to COVID-19. To celebrate the return, the Army Cadet Corps invited their compatriots from the Air and Sea cadets.

“In the Canadian Armed Forces everyone works together to accomplish the mission so in this aspect, we are all working together towards having this familiarization training,” said Captain Russell Barton, Commanding Officer of the 390 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. “It’s a good way for kids to get to meet each other, to interact, a good way for us to network with each other as well.”

Barton served as Official Host for the dinner. He said the event is a military tradition that helps create camaraderie among cadets. After so much time lost due to COVID, he said it’s good to see the dinner back on the calendar.

“It brings people together from all ranks,” he explained. “It’s an event that is more formalized and it’s a way for people to celebrate their accomplishments. It’s a way to develop Esprit Des Corps and morale. It’s also (involved) in many different aspects of the military regiments, and that sort of thing it can be a tradition within units.”

Not only does the dinner help cadets get to know each other, it also teaches them about the Canadian Armed Forces’ different traditions. Barton said the dinner is “steeped in tradition”, although they did create a few new “firsts” this year to celebrate the event’s return. In addition to inviting the Sea and Air cadet corps, they also invited parents to attend. Barton said it was great to get everyone together.

The cadets took over the ANAVETS basement for the majority of Saturday to setup, prepare food, and have a quick run-through before the main event in the evening.

He explained that there were several meetings to get the entire event ready and one full run-through before the run-through on Saturday. There are also several different protocols for the cadets to follow throughout the dinner.

“We are not wearing name tags, for example and that’s because we want people to go up to each other and ask each other, ‘what is your name’ so that they can kind of start a conversation. Protocols include things like playing certain music at certain times for different units. Protocol is also observing very, very formalized dinner practices,”

If cadets do not follow the rules they can be called out by their comrades during the dinner. The dinner was also a chance to have cadets take on leadership roles.

“We try to have the cadets take as many of the lead positions as possible so our PMC, our President of the Mess Committee tonight is a cadet, the Vice PMC is also a cadet,” Barton explained.

The PMC was Flight Sergeant Leon Pipito, the VPMC was Flight Sergeant Sabas Mittal and the emcee was Warrant Officer First Class Liam Levesque.

“They are going to be bringing the host around, they are going to be making sure that things go off without a hitch,” Barton explained. It is good to give those cadets that responsibility.”

There was a 15-minute warning before everyone was invited to the dining room. After everyone had entered, the PMC led the Head Table and Guest of Honour Joyce Fiddler of the ANAVETS to their table.

After everyone was seated, the Head Table was first to be served the meal of turkey and all of the fixings. The youngest cadet in each group then said Grace before the meal could begin.

Barton explained that this will help develop leadership training and citizenship.

“Every single cadet, whether they are here for one night, a few months or a full seven years as a cadet, we want them to get something from this program that they can apply outside of the cadet program,” he explained.

The Cadets have some famous alumni according to Barton. One of the biggest is Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who was a former Air Cadet.

This was the first time the Mess Dinner was hosted at the ANAVETs and this also served a purpose. In previous years the Mess Dinner was hosted at the Prince Albert Armoury and the Royal Canadian Legion.

“We have always wanted to make sure that we include different locations and include everyone,” Barton explained. “The ANAVETS, they have a beautiful club here, a great basement. They have been really accommodating for all of our cooking needs. It has been amazing,” Barton said.

The Cadets of all stripes are always looking for members, according to Barton.

“If people are seeing this and they are interested the Cadet program is for youth 12-years-old until their 19th birthday and if it is something that you think, or your child thinks would be interesting to stop by on one of the parade nights. The Army Cadets and the Air Cadets are parading on Mondays and the Sea Cadets I believe are parading on Thursdays,” he said.