Capt. Madeleine Dahl handing over the corps colours to Maj. Grant Whittla at the Change of Command ceremony on Oct. 7.

From raw recruit to commanding officer

Madeleine Dahl joined army cadets when she was 12. Last month she retired as the corps commanding officer

Madeleine Dahl joined 2483 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps when she was 12 years old. Now at 33, she has retired from her position of commanding officer.

When Dahl took over as commanding officer in September 2008, the corps had only 12 cadets, three officers and had lost their facility at Work Point in Esquimalt.

Dahl said her first big achievement at the corps was helping secure accommodations at the Highpoint Community Church in Vic West. After being there for three years, the corps moved to its current location in the guard house at Work Point Barracks, which it rents from Songhees Esquimalt First Nations.

“I knew we could get through it and pull together,” said Dahl, adding the corps now has more than 45 cadets and a full staff of officers.

“I had vision on what I knew the potential of the corps could be. And I think once I got that energy around me, it just naturally started coming.”

Despite the position of commanding officer only being a three-year term, Dahl showed her continued support for the corps by serving two full terms. In 2010, Dahl’s cadet corps was recognized as the top army cadet corps in B.C.

“That was a really big accomplishment seeing as three years before we were told that our corps was not viable,” Dahl said.

For the past two years, while also serving as the commanding officer, Dahl has been working for the Army Cadet League of Canada, B.C. branch, which is the civilian side of the cadet program.

“I help monitor the parent sponsoring committees on how to support the cadet corps.”

In March, Dahl began a two-year online program at Royal Roads University, where she is working towards a bachelor of arts degree in professional communication.

“I’m hoping to achieve a full-time job at the regional cadet support unit, which is the cadet headquarters in Esquimalt,” said Dahl. She said she would like to work as a staff officer or a public affairs officer, helping mentor the rest of the officers throughout the province.

Maj. Grant Whittla has worked with Dahl for the last six years, and knows what she is capable of.

“Given her background and zest for the program, she’s going to do well no matter what she does,” he said.

Being involved in all aspects of the cadets has taught Dahl about leadership, building community and has also increased her confidence, she said.

“Cadets really . . . gave me a sense of direction,” said Dahl. “I can’t imagine honestly who I would be without that.”

For the new commanding officer of the corps, Capt. Brandon McAuley, Dahl said her advice is to be flexible and have fun.

“They’re in good hands,” said Dahl, of her former cadet corps. “There’s no question there.”

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