WHERE ARE THEY NOW - "From a Cadet to a Canadian author, historian and lecturer"

December 18th 2022
Who is Roger Litwiller? 
I was born and raised in Kitchener, ON. On a family vacation, in 1976 I saw three Royal Canadian Navy destroyers that were in Kingston for the Olympics. The sleek curved hulls and helicopters on the decks was a truly impressive sight for this 12-year-old kid. That December I found a Royal Canadian Sea Cadet recruiting booth at the local mall, listening to these cadets, dressed in their blue uniforms telling me about their adventures, I knew I had to join. This was the best decision of my life. I stayed with RCSCC Warspite until I aged out at 19 as coxswain and then joined as an officer with the CIC. The training I received in First Aid led to my career as a Paramedic and according to the coordinator of the Paramedic Program, it was because of my experience as a cadet that I was able to be one of 24 successful candidates from over 1200 applicants. 

My career as a Paramedic spanned 37 years, in addition to working on the frontlines I also performed duties in Public Relations, Training, Supervising and mentoring new Paramedics. Additionally, I worked on several major projects, including the Kosovo Refugee Induction, CFB Trenton International Air Show, Disaster Management Committee, Y2K Mitigation Committee, Health and Safety and 1st Responder Mental Health Programs. During my career I received the Governor General's Medal for Exemplary Service and Bar, the Province of Ontario Award for Paramedic Bravery and Long Service Medal. 
I left the CIC in 1985 to start a family and focus on my career, my support for the cadet program and passion for Canadian Naval history never waivered. When I was approached in 1996 to become a Navy League Cadet Officer for a new Cadet Corps being formed in Trenton I readily accepted. I became the first Training Officer for NLCC Trentonian and later took command of the corps. Looking to instruct the cadets about their namesake ship, HMCS TRENTONIAN, I started to look for survivors of this historic Second World War corvette, leading to NLCC Trentonian hosting a reunion for the survivors of HMCS TRENTONIAN in Trenton in 2002. For coordinating this reunion, I received the Navy League of Canada National Presidents Award and a letter of commendation from VAdm R.D. Buck, Chief of Maritime Staff. Following my term as Commanding Officer I became the Area Officer for Eastern Ontario, with seven NL corps in my squadron. 
Interviewing our veterans began my path to writing a book on the RCN ships named for the Quinte Region in Ontario followed by a second book specifically on TRENTONIAN. My passion for writing and telling the stories of Canada's sailors blossomed. Because of my growing expertise in RCN history, I have had the good fortune to lecture on this subject from the Crowsnest in St. John's, NF to The Esquimalt Naval Museum in BC. and all points in between. I have articles published in many magazines including the Canadian Naval Review, Maritime Engineering Journal, Legion Magazine and Esprit de Corps magazine. I have also worked cooperatively with the RCN, sitting on the Battle of Atlantic 75th Anniversary committee, The RCNR Centenary Project, various public relations campaigns and providing voice narration for RCN PAO videos. The Canadian Coast Guard employed me on a contract from 2019 to 2020 as a Historian, providing insight to the predecessor of the CGG, the Department of Transportation and the Canadian Government ships participation in the Second World War. Currently, I am still actively researching and writing our Naval history, working towards publishing new books. Most recently assisting Project 44, detailing the defence of Canada during WWII and the cooperation of the RCN, RCAF, Canadian Army and Department of Transport to protect Canada's shores. 
Can you share your experience as a Sea Cadet in Kitchener, what you still miss about being a Cadet? You can also share a good memory or funny anecdote. 

I have been very fortunate with my experiences as a Sea Cadet with RCSCC Warspite. Beginning with the first parade night, meeting new people, many are still friends today. The corps was very active with additional training beyond the regular parade nights, with weekends away for training at Camp Ipperwash, where I learned how to rappel, to long weekends aboard HMCS HAIDA in Toronto and the excitement of staying in a ship. My first extended time away was my two-week basic training at CFB Cornwallis in Nova Scotia. Here I learned independence, the ability to look after myself away from home. Later I was sent on Sail Training Programs at CFB Kingston, receiving the skills to sail a small boat and later instruct sailing to others. This also included racing sailboats, together with fellow Sea Cadet and friend, Brett Dubrick we won the Sea Cadet National Championships, then placed 5th in the Canadian (Civilian) National Championships in Toronto, which earned us a place at the World Albacore Championships in Virginia, where we placed 32nd in the world. This entire journey was not possible without the support of the cadet program.  

During my time as a Cadet I was selected for several courses including the Para-Rescue Course, with specialized training in First Aid, Survival, Fitness, Etc. After successfully making seven parachute jumps, I earned my Para-Rescue Wings. Later I was part of a group of cadets that received training in piloting a Hovercraft and received my pilots wings on completion. The officers at Warspite encouraged myself and other cadets to enter the Duke of Edinburgh program, providing support and encouragement as we worked towards our goals. This provided me the opportunity to successfully complete the silver and gold standards and It was an honour to be presented with the Gold Award from Prince Phillip himself. The most incredible experience I had was being selected to join the RCN Destroyer HMCS OTTAWA on a three month operational deployment as a member of the ship's company. Sailing from Halifax in January on the ship's annual deployment to the Caribbean and returning in March. During this time I rotated through the various departments and trades that allow a Canadian warship to function at peak efficiency and contribute to the successful completion of OTTAWA's Combat Readiness Inspection.  
As an officer in the Canadian Forces Reserve, I was provided training in leadership, management, planning and development. All of these characteristics contributed greatly to my future career. Through all of this, it was the camaraderie, team work and especially the friendships that have had a lasting impression on me. It was a great honour for me to return to RCSCC Warspite a few years ago as the Reviewing Officer for the corps Annual Inspection. 
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. How would you describe the impact the Cadet program had in helping you get to where you are? Can you share a story about that? 
My home Sea Cadet Corps was very fortunate to have strong, dedicated officers and staff. They worked with the entire corps of cadets providing encouragement, obtainable goals, guidance, support and leadership. Many of my officers would become mentors to me, not only as a cadet, but also as a young reserve officer. An excellent example, I had failed a senior exam for promotion due to my lack of knowledge in navigation. I was crushed, my Commanding Officer took me aside and stated, not to worry, I could rewrite the exam again later, after I was given the proper tools to be successful. I was enrolled in the local Power Squadron to attend one of their courses, which included navigation. The course was 12 weeks long and took place on the same night as Cadets. I was assured that my position as a Divisional Petty Officer was secure and I would not lose any time or recognition in the corps. The corps paid for the entire program. By the next Promotion Review Board I was in a position not only to meet, but exceed the requirements and finish the board at the top of the candidates. This crushing failure was turned into an accomplishment by the exceptional people that influenced me. 

It is not until later in life, that you truly realize and understand what was taught to me in Cadets. I was there to learn sailing, shipwork, seamanship, fitness, etc. As an adult I realized what I had truly learned as a Sea Cadet was self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, reliability, problem solving, leadership, goal orientation and the willingness to face any situation presented, knowing that a positive solution can be found.  
Let’s zoom in on this a bit. If you had to advise a cadet about the 3 most important things you learnt as a Cadet and that you’re still using today, what would you say? 
There are many skills that I learned as a cadet that continue to influence my life today. Possibly the most important of these is the ability to have confidence in myself, knowing that I can meet any of life's, work, or home challenges that may come my way. I have the tools to identify a problem, know that there is an issue and discover a way to positively affect the outcome. This self-confidence also nurtured the respect and willingness to listen to others, both the people I look up to and look up to me, hear their opinions, suggestions and recommendations and incorporate their strengths to reach a successful solution. Teamwork is the greatest solution to any challenge.  
If you had to advise your loved ones about the 3 most important things you wish you knew before joining the Cadet program, what would you say? Can you give an example or share a story? 

If I had to provide only three points of advice to a young person looking to join cadets, 

1. Join your local Sea, Army or Air Cadet unit and stay with it. The opportunities that are available are endless and are yours to enjoy, but only if you stick around. 

2. Meet the challenges that await you without fear of failure. There are dedicated officers and senior cadets that will help guide you to success, ask questions, be curious and discover yourself outside of your comfort zone. 

3. Make friends. The people you meet and the experiences you share together will provide relationships that will last a lifetime. 

What skills and personality do you need to be a Paramedic? 

Paramedics are described as "A" type personalities, which means, a Paramedic is willing to run into a dire situation when everyone else is running away. The job of a Paramedic is to respond to situations that are life changing for the people involved, whether it is a critical medical emergency or a multi-system trauma from a serious accident. The Paramedic has to sort through the chaos of the scene, the overwhelming emotions of the victims and family and with a cool head provide care to the ill and injured victims. Routinely assessing the situation, hazards, threats to themselves and patients and making rapid critical decisions based on what can sometimes be a constantly evolving situation. This is all done, while providing care to their patient, to stabilize their condition and eventually transport the individual or persons to higher medical attention. 

The many tools and skills I gained as a Sea Cadet helped prepare me for my career as a Paramedic. Cadets gave me my initial training in First Aid and CPR. Followed by my Para-Rescue course, providing critical problem solving in the field. The parachuting was as much fun as it was the discovery that I can enter any situation successfully with the right training and equipment. The ability to ask questions and listen to answers provided the tools to assess my patients, allowing me to provide effective care to treat the condition they called me for. The leadership training has allowed me to be an effective supervisor, providing guidance and mentorship and when necessary take charge of large-scale situations, including a VIA Rail train fire with 75 wounded of 450 passengers onboard. Or smaller critical incidents of 10 or more victims in a vehicle collision. 

I can honestly say, the Sea Cadet program has directly and positively provided me with the tools that I continue to use everyday. The many officers and staff members that mentored me during those formative years have greatly influenced the person that I am today. For all of this, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Cadet Program and the people that make this program possible. 


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