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Fort Liard army recruit prepares to work with tanks

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 27, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A Fort Liard resident has become one of the newest members of the Canadian Forces.

On May 21, Neil Kotchea, 20, was sworn into the Canadian Forces as an armored crewman during a ceremony conducted at the Joint Task Force North Headquarters in Yellowknife. Kotchea thought about his own goals and his community when making the decision to join.

NNSL photo/graphic

Brig.-Gen. David Millar, Commander of Joint Task Force North, swears in Neil Kotchea of Fort Liard as a member of the Canadian Forces during a ceremony in Yellowknife on May 21. - photo courtesy of Cpt. Trevor Henderson

"Everything I'm doing now is based on accomplishment," he said.

Kotchea said the atmosphere in the Canadian Forces allows him to set goals, motivate himself and accomplish them, adding there's a good feeling that comes with completing something.

Kotchea said his goal is to be a role model for other youths in Fort Liard.

"To show the young kids you can do more things in Liard than drinking and drugs," he said.

Kotchea has already had one significant accomplishment. He's the first person in at least five years to complete the Northern Pre-Recruit Training Course (PRTC) and immediately join the forces.

The three-week course prepares aboriginal people who are considering joining the forces for military life and basic military qualification. Kotchea attended PRTC at Canadian Forces Base Borden in Ontario in April.

"I liked it a lot," said Kotchea about PRTC.

"You get to meet a lot of people from all over the providence and Canada."

Kotchea was introduced to life in the military with drills, marches, morning inspections and training.

"Everything has to be neat all the time and teamwork, always teamwork," he said.

As one of 30 candidates participating in the course, Kotchea said he enjoyed the camaraderie.

"You become friends with them and they help you out throughout the course," he said.

Kotchea said he was left with a good feeling when he graduated the course.

"You just feel like you can do better."

He is now looking forward to completing a 14-week basic training course in St. Jean, Quebec.

Pre-recruitment training is open to people 17 years old with a minimum of a Grade 10 education. Candidates who attend the course aren't obligated to join the forces.

"Ultimately it's their decision if they carry on in the military," said Petty Officer (first class) Lindsay Smallwood, a military career counsellor with the Canadian Forces recruiting detachment in Yellowknife.

Smallwood said most graduates take some time to before they join which makes Kotchea, who entered directly into the military, unique.

Participants who decide to join receive career counselling and take an aptitude test.

Kotchea was placed as an armoured crewman based on those results and will work with tanks.

Kotchea said he's ready to serve Canada in an armoured division.

"I'm looking forward to that accomplishment," he said.

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