Bold Eagle program a stepping stone to a military career

May 31, 2021 - Tim Bryant, Western Sentinel

Since its inception over three decades ago, the Bold Eagle program has had a significant impact on hundreds of young Indigenous men and women across Western and Northern Canada.

The annual program, held at 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton Detachment Wainwright every summer, provides young adults the opportunity to experience a taste of Army life. There is no obligation to commit to the military after graduation; however, every year a portion of the graduates opt for a career in the Canadian Armed Forces. Candidates can transfer to the Primary Reserve (a part-time commitment) or apply for a component transfer to the Regular Force while still in Wainwright.

One of these new recruits is Private Seth Cage Longjohn, a graduate from the 2019 edition of Bold Eagle and now an infantry soldier training at 3rd Canadian Division Training Centre (3 CDTC) in Wainwright.

“When I was a kid I wanted to join the military,” he said, explaining attending the program only strengthened that desire.

“When I got there I was pretty set in stone,” he said. “Talking to the instructors and teachers who were teaching us, they were all infantry staff members. Hearing their stories and hearing what the military was like made me want to pursue it more.”

Over the six-week course, Pte Longjohn said he learned a lot. There were the five days he spent in the field, as well as learning the ins and outs of patrolling. He got to experience descending a rappel tower, and became proficient with a C7 rifle. He also met a lot of new people from across Canada.

“It was only a six-week program; I just took in what I could take,” he said.

He did warn those considering attending Bold Eagle in the future that it is not a walk in the park.

“From the civilian life to the military life, it was a different change of pace,” he said.

Participants are expected to wake every morning at 5 a.m., do daily runs and physical training, and adhere to stricter discipline than is usually found in civilian life.

It is for that reason Pte Longjohn encourages those who are interested to research the program before signing up, so they have a better understanding of what they are getting themselves into.

That said, attending Bold Eagle does not mean you are obliged to enrol when the program is over, and, according to Pte Longjohn, it’s a worthwhile experience.

“I do encourage other youth to try it out, to go see how it is, see if they like it or not,” he said. “It’s only six weeks out of your life.”

And for those who are seriously considering enrolling, there is no doubt in Pte Longjohn’s mind that Bold Eagle is an excellent first step.


Private Seth Longjohn handles a C9A2 Light Machine Gun while on Developmental Period 1 – Infantry training at 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton Detachment Wainwright in March 2021. 


Private Seth Longjohn (second from left) alongside classmates and elders at 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton Detachment Wainwright after receiving the Warrior Spirit trophy at the Bold Eagle 2019 graduation ceremony in August 2019.


Bold Eagle candidates train at 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton Detachment Wainwright in August 2019. The Bold Eagle summer Indigenous youth development program combines military training and Indigenous cultural awareness for young men and women across Western Canada and Northern Ontario.

“If you do really want to pursue a military career, it does get you into the military [mindset],” he said.

Pte Longjohn’s desire to join the military stems in part from his brother having been a soldier, and also from his upbringing in the central Alberta community of Maskwacis.

“I wanted to make something of myself and be a role model for my younger siblings,” he explained.

After graduating Bold Eagle in the summer of 2019, Pte Longjohn applied for a component transfer to the Regular Force. Approximately three months later he was accepted to complete Infantry trade training back at 3 CDTC in Wainwright. While the transition from civilian life to Bold Eagle was an adjustment, he said taking the first step to becoming a qualified soldier on his Developmental Period 1 – Infantry (DP1-Inf) course was even greater.

“It was a different pace from Bold Eagle to going on a DP1 course,” he said. “It’s different. It’s a lot harder. It’s challenging for your mindset and your body.”

Despite that, he’s happy with his decision and how it led him to a career in the infantry.

“I like the camaraderie,” he said of his experience so far. “I like how close you get to someone you never knew from a different part of Canada. You’re getting so close to someone who’s not really blood but you would do anything to help them.”

On May 5, 2021, Pte Longjohn completed his DP1-Inf course. He was badged into the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), and will be posted to 1st Battalion, PPCLI in Edmonton.

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