Building the stuff of leadership
Junior Leaders appealed to Michelle Viera, her 13-year-old son Cameron wasn’t so sure.
But, from the first meeting he was hooked.
“We were encouraged to get involved by a friend whose son was already involved in the Junior Leaders programme,” Mrs Viera said. “I liked the idea of Cameron joining as I wanted him to get involved in something outside of sports that gave him inspiration to look further in his personal growth and for opportunities in the future.
“After the first weekend with the group, he was instantly excited and on board with being involved. Junior Leaders is teaching him self-discipline – like making sure that his personal appearance is clean and neat, being on time and being respectful to others. He’s learning teamwork is about his contribution to the bigger picture. He’s learning life-skills that may be useful to him in the future. Most of all, which is important in my eyes, is that it is building his confidence in himself.”
It was the type of experience the programme commandant, Gordon Emmerson, hoped for all participants.
He signed up for the Royal Bermuda Regiment initiative shortly after he was commissioned an officer from the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst in the UK.
“I was already a teacher [at Dellwood Middle School, Sandys Secondary Middle School, Bermuda High School and Mount St Agnes Academy],” Captain Emmerson said. “The commandant at the time, Major Henry Campbell, began to mentor me and include me in planning and organising Junior Leader events and summer camps.
“I jumped at the chance as I wanted more experience from the RBR, and it was a natural fit to combine my passions for education, working with our youth and participating in the military all in one package.”
First an instructor, he then became second in command; in January of last year he took over as commandant.
The Junior Leaders programme “technically began” as the Bermuda Cadet Corps in 1965. The name, and “some of the direction of the programme”, was changed by an Act of Parliament in 2015.
“In 2018 an internal review of the programme suggested that there were significant safety issues within its running and operations, and so the recommendation was carried forward to stand down the programme until it could be restructured and relaunched,” Captain Emmerson said.
With new regulations in place – adult instructors must sign on to the RBR’s code of conduct for working with young people, submit to a police background check and undergo mandatory Scars training – Junior Leaders resumed in January 2019.
“This is when I took over as commandant,” Captain Emmerson said. “I had a hand in creating the new Junior Leaders’s charter and handbook, as well as writing the training schedule, and coordinating activities and outings along with my RBR adult staff.”
A voluntary programme, Junior Leaders exposes 13 to 18 year olds to military life while promoting “leadership development, teamwork, discipline and fitness”.
Sixteen kids are currently enrolled although the programme can accommodate 25. The group meets Saturdays at Warwick Camp, from 8am to 5pm.
Their time is spent exercising, learning parade basic drills and how to safely handle and fire weapons.
Kayaking, abseiling and diving form part of their adventure training; Junior Leaders also learn how to “construct shelter, cook and otherwise live in the field”.
Survival training is a new aspect of the programme.
Said Captain Emmerson: “I want to build the sort of person who can use critical-thinking skills, confidence and a little ingenuity to handle all the very worst that life can throw at them and still make themselves safe, comfortable and successful in their aims.”
On a recent expedition, Junior Leaders learnt how to use hand lines to catch fish which they then had to “cut, clean, fillet and cook” as a supplement to their meals. Captain Emmerson hopes to also show them how to construct a fire and use snares to catch “small game” – chickens and rabbits.
“Through all of this ‘survivalist’ training, I hope to show our Junior Leaders the deeper beauty of their country and raise their awareness of her environmental issues and concerns,” he said.
The programme has an overall aim “to inspire young people to achieve success in life with a spirit of service to the Regiment, their country and their local community, and to develop in them the qualities of a good citizen”.
Added Mrs Viera: “My son loves it, and I love it because there isn’t much to do for teens on the island.”
Teenagers can sign up for Junior Leaders at rbr.bm or through Colour Sergeant Tim Furr on 338-7020.
With trick-or-treating nixed this year, boo buckets seemed the perfect way to raise money for the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s Junior Leaders programme.
Along with other members of the fundraising committee, Michelle Viera collected “a lot of candy” – from friends, family and co-workers.
The sweets were then put into Halloween-themed buckets that they made; the buckets will be sold this week.
The money raised will go towards Junior Leaders initiatives as well as “the two-week military boot camp that the teens normally take during the summer break”.
“We are also doing some community service by donating ‘boo bags’ to food banks, which will hopefully include the Eliza DoLittle Society and multiple churches around the island,” Mrs Viera said.
Boo buckets will be in front of Heron Bay MarketPlace on Friday from 11am to 4pm, in front of The Shopping Centre on Victoria St on Saturday from 10am to 4pm and at Warwick Camp on Friday from 4pm to 7pm. Small buckets are $5; medium buckets are $10; large buckets are $20. Pre-order at email@example.com