There are around 60,000 youths, aged 12-18 years, who participate in cadets annually in Canada.
Of that total, around 1,000 graduate from the cadet training centre in Cornwallis each year. This was the last graduation of 2017 at the base.
Emotions and excitement ran high for graduates and staff cadets.
16-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Oliver Wilkes, a sail instructor, looked excited as he described why the moment was bittersweet for him and everyone else.
“Coming here every year is an amazing experience. You make best friends here that are closer than school friends, so it’s tough to see them go,” he said.
“It’s so worth it though. I know I’m very proud of the cadets I’ve worked with.”
Another staff cadet, CTC Base Chief sail instructor and Chief petty officer first class Nikolas Sutherland agreed.
“It’s exciting to think of going home, but it’s also hard in a way to say goodbye to the people you meet here,” he said.
“I always miss the amazing sunsets too.”
For the graduation ceremony, the 500 graduating cadets – made up of sea cadets in white shirts, air force cadets in blue, and army cadets in green – marched on in groups into the parade square, where they were inspected by reviewing officers, including Brigadier General Kelly Woiden.
Woiden first inspected the cadets carrying flags, laughing and helping those whose flags had blown across their faces as they stood at attention for the inspection.
He spoke to each cadet he met, offering words of wisdom or a joke as he fixed flapping flags from faces.
“Let me get that for you,” he said to one such cadet, as both grinned.
After the inspection ceremony, several cadets were presented with awards of distinction and saluted their presenting officer as they walked up onto the dais.
Cheers erupted for each cadet receiving an award, making very clear the existence of support and teamwork among the graduates.
After the gradation ceremony, 14-year-old Guns Crew Member Cole Oakley spoke of his time on base.
“The weeks I was here flew by so fast,” he said.
“It’s been such a great opportunity and I can’t believe I’m graduating. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of new people during my basic seamanship course,” he said.
After the graduation came the less formal sunset ceremony and speeches from various officers in leading roles at the base.
After his speech, HMCS Commanding Officer Brent Newsome spoke of his pride in the cadets he graduated this year and what each graduation means to him.
“I’m immensely proud of the cadets for everything they’ve accomplished this summer and for the obstacles and challenges they’ve overcome. They’re just an incredible group of kids,” he said.
Newsome has worked with cadets for 26 years but never tires of seeing them graduate.
“Every year feels different because you know the unique challenges of that year.”
Field guns and muskets fired as the sunset ceremony drew to a close, the air filling with a light smoky haze as cadets said goodbye to each other.
“You don’t want to leave the friends you meet here,” said Oakley.