by OCdt Danielle Andela and Kyle Sinon (Special Contributor)
Officer Cadet Matthew White-Crepeau poses with his wife, Tania-Marie, son Kain and daughter Nikita-Marie.
Officer Cadets of the Royal Military College of Canada have a great deal of responsibility. They shoulder the leadership roles of the Cadet Wing, military training, athletic training and learning a second language. Though they are a minority, a handful of officer cadets shoulder additional responsibilities as spouses and parents.
"RMC has many time demands, especially in any of the engineering programs and it can be challenging when you have more to worry about than yourself," explains Officer Cadet Andrew Vickruck, a fourth-year civil-engineering student who has been married for three years and has a ten-month-old daughter.
"Given all that, I still find it very doable if I remain focused on academics and family," Vickruck added.
Officer cadets with families are few and far between, and they all come from very different backgrounds and situations. Take OCdt Matthew White-Crepeau for example, a second-year Political Science major with two young children. White-Crepeau, originally from Chambly, Quebec, was a non-commissioned infantry soldier with the Royal 22nd Regiment and completed a tour of Afghanistan in the late 2000s before leaving the Canadian Armed Forces in 2009. White-Crepeau returned to the CAF in 2012 to attend RMC through the ROTP (Regular Officer Training Plan) driven by his desire to "learn more at a higher level."
White-Crepeau says he enjoys his time studying at RMC and that, while his conditions are challenging, they are not overlooked.
"I'm expected to do pretty much what the officer cadets do, but there's good communication with my chain of authority, they give me a bit more leeway because I have a family, and therefore I have other responsibilities other than just going to class and going to my room for inspections, like other cadets," said White-Crepeau.
Having a family while attending RMC isn't necessarily an obstacle to juggle; OCdt Vickruck also described some of the perks of his situation.
"Events like the obstacle course in September and the Sunset Parade in late spring are really fun to bring your kids to," said Vickruck. "But really just any sort of social events become family fun. For example; I brought my daughter along for the 200 Days 'til Grad Trick-or-Treating event, where we fourth-years go around to the first-years for candy. And that was a lot of fun for both of us," Vickruck said , laughing.
White-Crepeau agrees that there are ups and downs, though many of those challenges are faced by Canadian Armed Forces members who serve across the country.
"The first year I spent here I was in the shacks, and my wife was in St. Hubert. But now this year she's here and I'm a bit more disconnected from the college because of my responsibilities at home. You know I don't communicate as much with the other cadets, because I don't live among them. And because of that it's more like a job at this point, trying to balance everything," said White-Crepeau.
An integral part of an officer cadet's support network is the Kingston Military Family Resource Centre (KMFRC), which provides services to all CAF personnel at CFB Kingston including RMC. Programs and services such as all-day childcare and before and after school care, in addition to PA day and March break activities, help keep the schedules of busy schedules with young families on track.
Vickruck says valuable programs at the KMFRC can help network families and provide a support structure.
"My wife is on the board of the KMFRC which has helped our awareness of what resources are available in the CAF, and really helped in meeting other military families," said Vickruck.
It isn't all stress and hard-times, both Vickruck and White-Crepeau are reportedly enjoying their studies, but according to White-Crepeau, applicants with families who wish to come to RMC should heed his advice.
"They need to know what they're getting into," he explained. "It's a lot of time management, a lot of juggling," he added.
"You know I have to make sure like 'what do you need to do tomorrow morning?', and my wife and I have to kind of coordinate on a daily basis," White-Crepeau also explained. "When I get home I have to make dinner, do the dishes and stuff like that, and I've been trying to find time for homework as well," he also added. "By the time its 8 or 9 o'clock you're pretty much spent. Then you give yourself 'til 10 or 11 to try and get to bed at a decent hour," "Then it starts all over again at five in the morning the next day," said White-Crepeau.
OCdt Vickruck and OCdt White-Crepeau aren't the only stories of a RMC cadet juggling family and military life. A small group of cadets from all sorts of backgrounds are busy managing the balance between their professional life as a cadet, and their personal life as a parent and or as spouses.
"We're not a huge number of people here [cadets with families], I know of two individuals that have children. They're pretty much living the life of any other OCdt but with their minds also on their children," said White-Crepeau.