Sea cadets celebrate 75 years

Reviewing officer, and former sea cadet, Jason Everitt receives a salute from a current cadet during inspection at the 118 RCSCC Rawalpindi 75th annual ceremonial review on Saturday. -- Photo courtesy of Tianna Stewart.

Jason Everitt’s first day as a sea cadet was a bit of an eye-opener.

He was 10 years old, and a friend of his was already a member. Everitt thought it looked interesting and decided to join, but his first experience was a little overwhelming.

“There were people doing drill and then there was more classroom work and I thought, ‘oh boy,’” Everitt chuckled during on interview on Monday. “But you know what? Once I started it I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved it.”

Everitt remained in the cadet program until 1987, making two trips at sea with the Canadian Navy and serving as a drummer in the Canadian Cadet Composite Pipe Band.

These days, as Prince Albert’s fire chief, Everitt spends more time spraying water than sailing on it, but his connection to the cadets is something he has always treasured. He still serves on the Navy League of Canada’s Saskatchewan division board of directors and on May 26 he had the opportunity to return to his old cadet corps as honorary inspector for the organization’s 75th annual ceremonial review.

“It’s not an easy program to be part of, especially as a youth,” Everitt said. “I know it was challenging when I was in the program, let alone now, and we see the cadets that thrive in there and then get that structure and they blossom. They’ll come into the organization shy and quite and reserved, and they’ll leave the organization full of confidence and self-respect and they’re ready to take on the world.”

Everitt was the reviewing officer, one of several guests on hand as the sea cadet corps 118 RCSCC Rawalpindi celebrated 75 years in Prince Albert. The organization began training cadets in December 1942 under the guidance of commanding officer Lt.-Cmdr. James Ballantyne, and took their name from the Rawalpindi, a 17,000 tonne Pacific & Orient passenger liner converted into an armed merchantman during the Battle of the Atlantic.

For Everitt and others, it was a great opportunity to honour a program that made a huge difference in their lives.

“It’s an incredible organization,” he said. “I know that it was great when I was a part of it. The potential opportunities for cadets back when I was there were amazing, and we’ve seen that continue up through the years.”

For the current crop of cadets and officers, celebrating 75 years is a bit overwhelming. However, like Everitt, they appreciate the opportunities and the stability offered by the organization.

Like Everitt, McKayla Drysdale got involved in cadets three years ago because of someone she knew. In this case it was her cousin, who joined the air cadets. She also had a great-grandfather who served in the Canadian army, and the urge to follow in their footsteps was strong. She hasn’t regretted it either.

“I wanted to be in that uniform. I wanted to stand proud,” Drysdale explained. “It’s a great time.”

Since it was founded in 1942, Prince Albert’s sea cadet program has had 21 different commanding officers. The current commanding officer, Lt.(N) Celine Michayluk, is in her second term in the position, having previously served from 1999 to 2005.

Michayluk has seen numerous changes over those years, but appreciates the reliability of the staff who continue to do all they can to help their cadets blossom. She’s hopeful that in another seven decades, the organization will celebrate 150 years. Even if they don’t, however, she said the organization has already had a strong impact on the community.

“Well, 75 years is a pretty large milestone, especially for a cadet unit,” Celine Michayluk, said. “In this day and age, there’s so much competition with sporting clubs (and) dance groups, so I think it’s pretty significant that we’ve been here for 75 years.”