ARCHIVED - Opening doors to experience – Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year graduates prepare for a bright future

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Article / June 22, 2015 / Project number: 15-0105

Kingston, Ontario — As the final weeks of the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year (ALOY) program for 2015 came to a close at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario, Officer Cadets Tishyna Ned and Dalton Simba prepared for their graduation and now look to the future ahead.

The ALOY program offers a rewarding, one-year educational and leadership experience through RMC. Currently in its seventh year, the competitive program admits an average of 18 to 20 students annually. This year, OCdt Ned and OCdt Simba, along with 15 others, accepted their diplomas on June 19.  Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, Commander of the Canadian Army, who is also the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Champion for Aboriginal Peoples, attends the commencement ceremony every year and is proud to honour the cadets’ accomplishments.  

It is with great joy that I salute the achievements of the ALOY graduates. They have worked with determination and commitment over the past year and will take their new skills and knowledge with them as they progress to the next steps in their futures,” said LGen Hainse. “The Canadian Armed Forces maintain a continued commitment to making Aboriginal Peoples an integral part of Canada’s Defence Team. The collective success of these exemplary young women and men underscores this effort.

The aim of the ALOY program is to help young Aboriginal Canadians develop leadership and academic skills under the CAF Officer Training Program. Cadets challenge themselves through hard work, perseverance and reliance on others as they develop valuable skills such as leadership, self-confidence, self-discipline, teamwork, respect and fitness. Academics and military training are conducted with close observance of Aboriginal culture. The program maintains close ties with Elders and the local Aboriginal community, who guide and support the cadets through their experiences and serve as positive role models.

OCdt Simba, who hails from Kakisa Lake in the Northwest Territories, said family support often plays a role in the decision to participate in programs such as ALOY. “It was mostly my cousin who graduated from ALOY in 2014 who really encouraged me to participate. My parents were really excited and my whole family was really supportive of my decision.

OCdt Simba’s cousin Sapper Waylon Simba is currently training as a combat engineer in Gagetown. “It was an opportunity for me to get out of my community and open my eyes to the world. I’ve learned a lot about myself,” OCdt Simba said.

OCdt Ned, who is from Lillooet, British Columbia and has a history of military service in her family, is currently blazing the trail as the only currently serving member of the CAF in her community.

Both officer cadets are excited to take their experiences with them as they plan their next steps. Favourite aspects of the program included learning and coordinating battle procedures, navigation exercises, a 10-day canoe trip on the Rideau Canal and the challenges of the obstacle course. The ALOY experience was also not without its complexities. “During the school year, I was enrolled in four university courses and military training. I also played on the women’s rugby team. It was a lot to handle, but it also taught me how to better manage my time,” said OCdt Ned. OCdt Simba said he also found leading a team of peers to be challenging, yet enriching. 

When asked about whether they had any recommendations for future ALOY graduates and those considering this or any of the other CAF Aboriginal programs (including Bold Eagle, Black Bear, Raven and the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program), OCdt Ned, who has previous experience as a reservist, advises candidates to work hard. OCdt Simba says it’s important for new students to come in with an open mind.

Programs like ALOY were created so that young Aboriginal Canadians could come together to experience aspects of the military lifestyle and learn new skills that would benefit them and their communities, regardless of their future career choice. Following the completion of ALOY, participants can join the CAF or apply the leadership and teamwork skills they have learned in a wide variety of capacities outside a military career, including by returning to their communities to make a positive contribution there.

OCdt Ned will be joining the Regular Force as a non-commissioned armoured soldier, operating and maintaining armoured fighting vehicles and their weapon systems and communication equipment. OCdt Simba is planning to combine his love of the outdoors and his newly expanded navigational skills to a future with the territorial government, specifically the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

ALOY also offers a strong opportunity for a professional future in the CAF. Candidates can apply to continue their education with the RMC. Naval Cadet Sarah General, originally from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, graduated from ALOY in 2013 and has chosen to continue her schooling at the College, where she is currently completing her third year. NCdt General is also preparing to return to ALOY as an instructor.

I wanted to give back to the program,” said NCdt General, who will be commanding a section of ten cadets. She believes that her prior experience with ALOY has given her insight into the program and how to make it better. She hopes to help strengthen the link between the military and cultural aspects of the program. “My role is important because I’m the most close to the ALOY participants. I’ll be in charge of how they conduct themselves, their responsibility [and serve as] a role model. I’ll be there if they need any help on a professional level,” she said.

Acting Sub-Lieutenant Nicole Shingoose was the first ALOY graduate to finish a degree program with the RMC and then proceed to join the CAF. Originally from Moosomin First Nation in Saskatchewan, A/SLt Shingoose is currently a Logistics Officer with Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Unicorn in Saskatoon. She fondly remembers her experience with ALOY, yet understands the challenges that many ALOY students encounter as they adapt to new environments and military life. She urges participants to face adversity head-on.

My advice is to never give up on what you want. You’ll find your true potential and that’s really rewarding,” she said. “Explore. Have an open mind about things. The world is huge. There’s so much to learn.

The values I learned, I definitely use today. I honestly don’t know what kind of person I would be today without having had those experiences. Programs like ALOY are very, very valuable to your work life or school, even civilian life and anything that you do,” A/SLt Shingoose concludes.

By Natalie Flynn, Army Public Affairs

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