Thirty-two young people from across eastern Canada have completed their training under the Black Bear Indigenous summer training program at Base Gagetown.
Black Bear is a six-week program conducted at a training center on the base near Oromocto, N.B., designed to incorporate Indigenous culture with some basic military training.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished here.” said Lt.-Col. Errol MacEachern, who runs the training program responsible for Black Bear.
MacEachern said the program offers two components to participants.
“The first one is a culture camp … we bring in elders and aboriginal councilors in order to work with the youth and give them a more in-depth look at indigenous culture from across Canada,” he said.
“And then they take part in a full, basic military qualification course that we would offer to anyone in the Canadian Army Reserves.”
Friday’s graduation ceremony was attended by more than 200 friends, family and colleagues. After a military parade and several addresses and awards, the graduates left the hall to loud applause from all in attendance.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” said 16-year-old Patrick Leblanc of Fredericton. “I learned that the military is a natural fit for me, and it’s a good way of life for me.”
“I wanted to see what it was like, for the experience, and to see if I was interested in this type of stuff,” said Raeann Rivers of Manitou Island, Ont., who is unsure if she’ll pursue a military career further. “I learned a lot of life skills when I was here. Improved on them as well.”
MacEachern said programs similar to Black Bear have been run in the Canadian military for about a decade and Friday’s ceremony concludes the fifth time it has been run in New Brunswick.
“I’m really proud of these young people,” he said. “They did really, really well here, and I am really proud to have been their commanding officer.”