If the best things in life are free, then the Canadian Army Cadets must be pretty high on the list.
While parents can shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on sports or dance lessons for their kids, the cadet corps offer great activities for youth aged 12 to 18… and it’s all at no cost.
Monday night, for example, is target shooting, drill and leadership night at the Hope Legion Hall. Under the direction of the regiment leader, Lt. Hans Mulder, the cadets set up the range and brought out the Daisy 835C pellet air-rifles. Brett Creighton was tasked with counting out 10 pellets into each of the small plastic cups, so every shooter would have a metered number of shots.
Cadets sign a target card and pin it to their target stand, 10 metres from the shooting position.
I was invited to take part, so I lied about my age to be able to join the U-19 cadets on a temporary basis. Fourteen-year-old Jackson Lott — a former phys-ed student of mine — was appointed as my trainer.
We slipped into our shooting jackets and attached a steadying strap around the biceps of our non-trigger arms. This would later be attached to a bracket at the front of the forestock. We put on safety glasses and stood by our shooting mats.
When Lt. Mulder was satisfied that everything was in order, he gave the command to get in the prone position on the mats and then ran us through a series of commands leading to priming the air piston, loading the pellet, releasing the safety and firing when ready.
From that point on, we were free to fire off our 10 shots. Private Lott gave me tips on breathing, with the trigger being pulled on the exhale of the second breath. Without a magnifying scope, I couldn’t tell how well I was doing — but once all had finished shooting and had applied our safeties, we went and retrieved our targets.
All of mine were pulling slightly to the right of centre but nine of 10 were grouped so well that I could cover the holes with a nickel. With Private Lott’s coaching, I earned my first badge.
Shooting guns is fun — but there’s so much more offered by the cadet program, taught and led in a structured and respectful manner.
“The aims of the program are to instill good citizenship, good physical conditioning and stimulate an interest in the elements of the armed forces: navy, army and air force,” said Lt. Mulder. “Only about 10 per cent of cadets, nationally, actually go on to join the military — but the option is there.”
“On the army side, we offer expeditions, outdoor skills, survival skills and adventure training. Some of that will involve multiple-day camp-outs.
“We’ve got a cadet, Elisha Johnson-Jensen from Agassiz, who will be going to the Rocky Mountain Cadet Training Centre near Canmore for six weeks this summer,” added the lieutenant. “She’ll be doing glacier climbing, white water kayaking, mountain biking and horseback riding — and her sister Nicole gets to go on a six-week exchange for adventure and expeditions in Wales.”
Eighteen-year-old Hope Secondary grad Isaiah Robinson had a similar experience at the Vernon camp last summer.
“We had a 15-day expedition between Vernon and Kamloops, covering 250 kilometres. We did river rafting, canoeing, hiking and mountain-biking,” said Robinson, who was one of four cadets — out of 900 at the camp — selected for the General J. E. Vance Leadership Award. He hopes to work at the camp this summer… his last as a cadet.
Cadet Richard Goodman of Yale has been recognized for his excellence in marksmanship and will be off on his own adventure this summer.
“Richard is going to the Connaught Army Cadet training centre in Ontario for six weeks,” said Lt. Mulder. “It’s known worldwide for service rifle competitions — and a lot of Olympic biathletes get their start there.”
“If he successfully completes his courses at Connaught, he could join the national team and compete against Commonwealth teams at Bisley, England.”
And remember: it won’t cost him a dime. All costs are jointly funded by the Department of National Defence and the Army Cadet League of Canada.
If you’d like to learn more about the Army Cadets in Hope, they will holding an open house at the Legion Hall on Monday, June 16 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feel free to contact Captain Sam Ronholm at 604-799-8897 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org