Recently I, Jonathan Maxwell, received my four year service medal in Army Cadets. I have done many fun and challenging activities. Through my experiences I believe Army Cadets is a wonderful program.
I joined cadets when I was twelve; I was in awe of it, I thought it was so cool. Army Cadets has lessons about knot tying, leadership, cold weather, hot weather, problem solving, public speaking, emergency scenarios (eventually I got my first aid certificate), how to pack for a trip, what to pack for a trip, drill (something I enjoyed learning and practicing) as well as map and compass. All of this I learned on Wednesday nights from seven o'clock to nine o'clock. The nights were not always immaculate, sometimes they were boring, and sometimes things didn't run so smoothly, but I still learned valuable lessons.
I love the knowledge and the understanding that I learned in Army Cadets and I use what I have learned quite often. One of the neatest things I learned in cadets was map and compass. I learned the grid references, the three norths, declination, direction, pacing and how to apply them to a map and also in the field. I feel as if I can never get lost again even though I know I can still make mistakes. We sometimes go into the field to learn new things that an individual can't teach very well in a classroom setting. We also apply what we learned in the classroom to real life. One thing that I have enjoyed immensely in Cadets is the summer training courses.
A lot of interesting things happen during the summer training courses. The first time I went to summer camp was two weeks long and during that time I got taught classroom lessons, practical lessons, and some of my first drill parades I experienced. Camp wouldn't have been half as fun if I didn't make any friends, I was a shy kid back then (four years isn't a very long time, but it feels like ages) and I still managed to make some rather good friends. I was very happy when I found out that I got paid $10.00 a day for being there (except for Sunday, because it was our day off!).
The second year of summer camp was even better than the first because there were more challenging activities. I was extremely nervous to participate in these activities, but once I experienced them, I wanted to do them all over again. One of the activities was the climbing wall (around 40 feet high), and belaying off a mock tower (double the height of the climbing wall), which was an exhilarating experience. I ended up going off of the highest part twice. Before we reached the top level there were two levels we had to go off of first. I had to wait awhile because the rest of the platoon wanted to go off the tower too. Some of us made it a race to see who could get from the top of the tower to the bottom the fastest. I won! I was happy, since I made it in five seconds. An officer beat all of us with a record time of two or three seconds, which was almost impossible. I'm so glad we were wearing gloves otherwise our hands would have been burnt really bad.
I also got my first taste of canoeing; I'm going to have to be a critic and say that the instructors this particular time failed to teach us properly about canoeing. They tried teaching us the four basic strokes and the J-stroke. None of us used the strokes efficiently because we were unsure how to use the strokes. I think that that was the first truly bad experience I had in cadets. We did many other things, but it would take too long to write about.
In my third year, I learned canoeing on a Silver Star Expedition, and I haven't had a problem with canoeing since. In fact, one time I did happen to rig a sail in a canoe. It was a square sail, but I was able to hoist it up and down very quickly. I had to be very careful regarding the wind otherwise I would have ended up trashing the canoe (which I nearly did). Although the sailing was outside of Army Cadets I received all the knowledge to rig a very simple sail from Army Cadets training. Summer training was a blast the third year. I don't think I've had so much fun in my life. There were a few very important things I learned in my third year of summer training and it put most of the things I learned in my first and second years of summer training to the test. I should probably mention that the first two years of camp were done in Vernon, B.C. and the third year I went to the Yukon.
Everything in cadets is free, so I got a free plane ride to these places and back. I took bus rides to and from the airport and my final destination. Cadets are now taken by limos (which is a really fancy name they give to really nice four door cars, so when I say limo I don't mean the long black cars). In the Yukon we had our base just outside of Whitehorse, but we were there for three weeks out of our six week course. For three of the weeks we were mostly out hiking, canoeing and doing other activities in the bush. The major activity we did was a four day trek over a mountain and a twenty minute boat ride across a lake. We covered ground extremely fast hiking over a mountain and the view was fantastic, so it was worth it. We had to navigate the whole way by ourselves. The goal was to get from the road to the boat that about ten of us could fit in at a time, and paddle it to the opposite side of the lake. There was about thirty of us that needed to get across and a motor boat pulled it back each time ten of us got across the lake. I'm glad to report that we only missed the destination by about 100 feet, which was a relief because it would have been horrible if we missed it by 500 meters. We trekked through five hundred meters of dense bush (surprisingly it was very green when I went to the Yukon). All the while we had to travel in a fairly straight line, which did get annoying after a while. This trip was overall loads of fun.
Another activity we did was to go into the bush for a whole week and this is when drinking water became a huge reality for me. Personally I have never liked water unless I am really thirsty, so I never drink it unless I am really thirsty. During my training I've seen dehydrated people and in some cases it was quite serious. In summer camp there was always a vehicle keep nearby for when emergencies happened. In Army Cadets they make sure our water bottles are full all the times and we drink from our canteen regularly. The staff weren't perfect and missed some of us who were in danger of dehydration. For instance, a few others and I that tried to get out of drinking water and were caught every so often and made to drink water. Dehydration that happens to most of the cadets on exercises is the kind that sneaks up and gives you almost like a lite tap and you drop and you can't move. The eye opener happened when a guy in my platoon dropped like this and there was no truck near where he could get a ride to the hospital. Luckily there was a doctor nearby and he could feed the cadet water nonstop until he was up and running again. This is when I started getting nervous about not drinking water. Once I became dehydrated and I was half way to the ground, and it was a miracle that I caught myself before I hit the ground. It scared me half to death. Whenever I go on outings now, I drink water.
We also went on a week canoe trip in a river (which I found out was a lot different than flat water). We did intense training beforehand with paddling, and how to read the water, which I later became very good at. Rivers can be very windy and some rivers also have a few passage ways that are short cuts. This is where maps became very useful. At first all we did was cut the corners in this river, we thought it was faster than taking the outside edge of the river. Everybody else always took the middle of the river or cut the corners. My partner and I fell way behind everybody because we didn't paddle as fast and as hard. Eventually I got good at seeing the shallow parts of the river and the sandbars. I rarely grounded the canoe unless we took a passage way then we had to drag our canoe through two inches of water. We also came to notice that the outside edge of the river traveled twice as fast as the inside edges that everyone else was taking. We soon were able to use the passage ways and the outside edge of the river and my partner and I soon outstripped all the other canoes in speed. We put a few hundred meters between us and the main group before we were told to slow down (eventually everybody finally figured out how we were going so fast in the last few kilometers).
The funniest thing that happened to us on the canoe trip was when the river became very wide and only four feet from the edges were deep enough to paddle in and the river was around 100 meters across. I was able to read the water and see the giant sand bar in the middle of this river. Everyone took the middle of the river, but we steered to the side immediately. I saw everyone hit the sand bar except one that was near the edge of the river and plowed through it to the edge of the river. We were traveling around 10km/h and we had to wait for about fifteen minutes for everyone to pull their canoes with around 150 pounds of equipment across the sandbar to the edge of the river to get going again. We all laughed about it when we set up camp that night. We also went white water rafting on class four rapids (the highest class you can go down with commercial rafting). That was a hilarious time. It did get intense at times and it was the best white water rafting trip I've ever went on. We also went belaying, but this was off real cliffs, unlike the last time I went with Army Cadets.
There are many other things I did at the summer training centers; these are just a few things that I have experienced in Army Cadets. There are also the weekend activities which are generally lots of fun, but I think that I wrote too much already. This summer I have applied for a four week exchange to Australia through Army Cadets and I hope I get it.
By WO Maxwell, J.
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