On a warm afternoon in Colwood, the quarterdeck lounge at Royal Roads University has the feel of a graduation ceremony.
Sixteen young men in suits are seated at the front of the hall, ready to take the next step in their lives, a step that will see them officially sworn in as members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
For Seamus Maguire, a Saanich resident and one of 10 Greater Victoria area recruits who successfully competed for a spot in the Regular Officer Training Plan, this day is the culmination of an arduous application process.
More than 5,000 individuals across Canada applied for a spot in this program. About 500 were successful in gaining not only paid post-secondary education in the field of their choice, but a guaranteed career in the military afterward.
“It’s been a little nerve-wracking, but now that it’s all done and over I’m very excited, it’s a great opportunity,” said Maguire, a 2013 high school grad who was scouted by reps from the Royal Military College’s varsity hockey program when he was playing junior A in Northern Ontario this past season.
“It was never something that crossed my mind at first, but when it came down to it it was just such a great opportunity. I get to play a few more years of hockey and I couldn’t pass that up … and I get to serve my country as well and I’m looking forward to that.”
Maguire, who joins the rest of the new recruits at basic training in St. Jean, Que. in early July, will study business administration and hopes to become a logistics officer.
His route to the military illustrated the variety of ways individuals get to this point.
“When I was sitting at the front all I could think about is the challenges next year and how I don’t want to be scared, I just want to be courageous as I move forward in my life,” said Cael Halvorsen, a Bear Mountain resident who wrote his final exam the day before and was set to graduate from Shawnigan Lake School last Saturday.
Having seen his grandfather and uncle in military careers, the idea of enlisting was always a consideration, the future naval combat systems engineer said.
When he was searching out potential schools – they included UBC and the University of Alberta – “RMC kind of stuck out because it was not only a challenge, but it was an opportunity to go to a higher level of learning, something different than just a regular school.”
Col. Timothy Bishop, a 35-year army veteran and the current commander of the Canadian Forces Recruiting Group, swore in the young recruits at last week’s ceremony. Based in Borden, Ont., he only gets a chance to officiate at a few of these events each year.
“It’s always a very special day to welcome new members to the family, and that’s what this is to me,” he said. “We’re literally looking at my replacements … I’m coming to the end of my career and these kids are just starting. The level of potential that I’m looking at makes me appreciate very much the quality of the kids that are coming our doors and wanting to join us.”
One of the biggest differences from when he enlisted is the determination of one’s trade. With 106 to choose from across the three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces – navy, army and air force – recruits have in mind the trade they’ll get involved in ahead of time, not once they finish basic training.
Many of the new recruits plan to specialize in trades, such as various types of engineering, while others have infantry positions in mind at this point.
Victoria-based recruiting officer Petty Officer 2nd Class Heather Smolinski, whose office on Fort Street handles inquiries for all of Vancouver Island, was like a proud den mother watching the newcomers interact.
“I can see them already starting to gel and work as a team, I thought that was really nice,” she said. “They’re already getting to know one another and getting ready for the next step and heading off to basic officer training shortly.”
One of the real moms in the crowd, Sandra Hudson, Maguire’s mother, summed up her feelings about the proceedings and seeing her son enter the next stage of his life: “It’s pretty much one of my proudest mom moments,” she said.
For information on opportunities in the Canadian Armed Forces, visit http://www.forces.gc.ca/en and click on Education and Training, or Jobs.