Cadet Instructor named Conservation Officer of the Year

Article / August 27, 2020 / Project number: 20-0116

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

New Liskeard, Ontario — An Ontario Cadet Instructor has been named Conservation Officer of the Year by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and the Ontario Conservation Officers Association.

Lieutenant Mike Schenk works out of the MNRF’s office in New Liskeard, Ontario, providing natural resources enforcement in the Temagami area, and serves as a Cadet Instructor in the area as a part of the Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service (COATS).

In the following interview, Lt Schenk discusses the many satisfactions that come with mentoring youth, how his two jobs influence one another, and having too much fun with his Cadets to retire.

When did you first become involved with Cadets and what motivated or inspired you?

In December, 2004, my 12-year-old son, Taylor, joined the Army Cadet program and was really enjoying it, but there was a serious shortage of civilian instructors. So, in the fall of 2006 I joined to help out. I liked the program and was recruited into the Cadet Instructors Cadre in 2009, at the age of 45. I was a Boy Scout/Venturer. That had a fundamental influence on me in my teen years. As an adult, I was a Scouting program leader for seven years, and now enjoy my time with the Army Cadet program.

Being a youth leader is a way for me to give back to my community. All three of my now-grown children went through the full Army Cadet experience. I told my wife, Lise, that I would retire after they had aged out of Cadets, but I’m having too much fun to leave now.

Describe the Cadet unit you work with. What kinds of things do you teach?

I am attached to 2344 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. It has been active in the community for 70 years. We parade approximately 30 Cadets annually, with a very involved staff of four officers and three civilian instructors. I instruct the Cadets on all subjects except Drill. With my worn-out knees… the senior Cadets teach that much better than I can. I particularly enjoy teaching outdoor adventure-related topics like navigation, bivouacking, and survival skills, along with coaching the marksmanship team.

What do you enjoy most about working with young people?

The best part is to see them arrive in the program very nervous, shy, and self-conscious, then watching them learn and expand their confidence to the point where they provide the leadership for the entire Corps. It makes you feel proud to think that you had a part in their development.

How do your two jobs impact one another?

They have been very compatible and complementary. I bring my knowledge of the outdoors, wilderness travel, and survival skills learned on the job as a conservation officer through my formal education as a forest technologist to the Corps. I have really gained from the operational planning and instructional techniques taught during military training.

How did it feel to be named Conservation Officer of the Year?

It is truly the highlight of my 40 years with MNRF. It was a huge surprise. I am very humbled to have been nominated and selected by my fellow officers. MNRF is a very team-oriented ministry, and I give great credit to the other officers and staff I have had the honour to work with.

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