What’s it REALLY like?
At 21 Army Cadets, we gather on Monday nights from 6pm-9pm from September to June. Parade nights are a blend of classroom learning and drill, with specific nights reserved for sports and marksmanship. At the beginning of the night, you sign in and form up on the parade square in your platoon for opening parade. You’ll receive some instruction on how the night will progress. The night is split into 3 periods, with a break between the second and third when canteen is available. At the end of the night, cadets form up again on the parade square for final announcements. Parents are welcome to join at this point to hear about upcoming events or other announcements.
But what do cadets learn?
Drill and Ceremonial
There is an old saying that everyone loves a parade. Even more so when there is some well executed and coordinated moves. Drill helps to teach group cohesion, develops physical coordination, self-control and leadership.
Modern drill is an evolution of movements originating from maneuvers used by troops in battle. Throughout the centuries it has gone from the coordination of pike-men and knights on horseback, to archers in the field and finally to muskets. Many of the historical maneuvers can still be seen today. However, drill is not just a throwback to a bygone era, it is still the backbone of the modern military. Watching a cadet corps in action you will notice it is other cadets who are giving the commands and not the officers. That is because, as a cadet moves up through the ranks, they are given more and more responsibility.
In addition, there is a yearly drill competition where the cadets compete against other Corps throughout the region. Comprised of, and run by, cadets, the drill team gets to take their skills to the next level.
Nothing combines the lessons learned during regular training with fun than a Field Training Exercise (FTX). Three times during the training year the Army Cadets head into the bush for training. We leave the armoury on Friday night around 6pm and head to our weekend camping site. After a weekend of fun teambuilding and bushcraft activities, we return back to the armoury on Sunday afternoon. There are three themes for FTX weekends:
- Bivouac – Survival skills, camping, using camp equipment and tools and being part of a group
- Cold Weather – A perennial favourite, we learn winter survival techniques, snow showing, fire starting and sleeping in the cold
- Trekking – Because we are based on the military, we can’t just call it “going for nice walk in the woods”. The cadets get learn test their endurance, learn how to read maps and navigate in the woods. Trekking can really help to build self-esteem and confidence.
We also combine other aspects into our FTX weekends such as abseiling, obstacle course, archery, marksmanship, and snowshoeing. FTX weekends are a chance for the cadet to put their hard-learned outdoor skills to use and to learn new ones. Cadets learn outdoor survival skills, navigation, leadership, communications and much more. In addition, cadets get to test their leadership abilities through various taskings, improve physical fitness and help build self-confidence. The FTX is one of the things most warmly remembered by those who have been in cadets. Officers and senior cadets work hard to plan events that make the weekends a lot of fun for everyone.
Another favourite for the cadets (for some unknown reason) are the Meals Ready to Eat or MREs. These rations are designed to provide energy and nutrition during periods of high activity and the cadets actually think they are good. These are the meals provided to the Canadian Armed Forces when they are in the field as well. For cadets, the MREs are supplemented with fresh rations such as fruit and granola bars. The Support committee usually attends on Saturday night to help prepare a fresh meal, such as barbecued burgers with salads, grilled chicken with roasted potatoes and veggies, or pasta and Caesar Salad. We make sure that there are appropriate rations for cadets with food concerns (such as vegetarian needs, allergies, or religious requirements).
Ultimately, these weekends help build camaraderie and esprit de corps. The friendships they make on these weekends can last a lifetime.
When the zombie apocalypse happens, Google maps isn’t going the help you avoid the brain eating hordes. After all, it’s hard to navigate with your phone in one hand while fighting the undead with the other. For that, we have orienteering.
Boring as it might seem, this is a handy skill to have when you head off into the woods. We teach you how to use a map and compass, navigate in the woods and find locations with no land marks to go by. Plus, it is a lot of fun. Map and compass skills are part of the required training, but those who really enjoy it can join the 21 RHFC-ACC Orienteering Team. Throughout the year, we also try to have (optional) weekend hikes where we can incorporate some of the orienteering, map, and compass skills cadets have learned.
Marksmanship is a skill which helps the cadet learn self-control and concentration. It is no easy task hitting that little, tiny circle. But let’s face it, target shooting is a lot of fun. At Army Cadets, we will teach the cadet how to properly maintain the Daisy air rifle, how to handle it safely and responsibly, and how to hit the target. Throughout the training year we have range days where cadets can work on their abilities. We also like to take them out on FTX’s for a little biathlon experience. When cadets get a tight enough grouping on their targets, they qualify for marksmanship badge to wear on their tunic.
Like so many other things in the Army Cadets, cadets who are interested in learning more can apply to go to summer training at CTC Connaught near Ottawa. The basic course will hone their skills at handling and firing the air rifle, while the more advanced course is designed to teach the cadet how to instruct other cadets on the Daisy air rifle.
For the truly skilled marksman, however, there is Fullbore shooting. The cadets must compete to get on this course as only the top shooters from corps across Ontario get to go. While on this course the cadets will learn how to shoot an actual rifle, how to maintain it and how safely handle it. The best cadets from the first year are automatically offered the second level course the next year. And finally, the best of this group is offered the chance to be on the National Rifle Team, who go to Bisley, England to train.
From very early on, cadets learn how to teach classes, deal with the public and interact with all sorts of people. We strive to instill confidence and self-assurance in the cadets to carry with them throughout their lives. It doesn’t take long for even the shyest cadet to come out of their shell.
Army Cadets is very much about cadets leading cadets. As they work their way up through the ranks, the cadets are given progressively increasing responsibility. Officers and staff are there to guide the cadets but ultimately it is the senior cadets who run things and mentor junior cadets, just as they were mentored.
21 RHFC ACC follows the army tradition of breaking the Corps into groups mirrored after an infantry regiment. Starting with a section, cadets are put in charge of a group of junior cadets ranging from 6-10 cadets. They can progress be appointed to Platoon Sergeant-Major, Company Sergeant-Major (CSM) and, ultimately, Regimental Sergeant-Major (RSM), who is the top-ranking cadet in the Corps and in charge of all the other cadets.
One of the mandates of the Cadet Program is to promote physical fitness. Cadets are encouraged to eat healthy and to exercise. They are also given a fitness test twice a year which is used to assess their eligibility for some of the more physically demanding activities, such as expeditions, certain summer training opportunities, and exchanges.
Of course, we also like to have fun. Besides doing fitness testing, 21 RHFC ACC has periodic sports/fun nights and extra-curricular activities. In the past, we have taken the cadets to go rock-climbing, curling, trampolining, zip-lining, and snow tubing. Some of our Field Training Exercises also incorporate an obstacle course and biathlon. We like to sneak the fitness in by disguising it as fun. Graduates of the Sports and Fitness Instructor course also help to plan sports and fun nights at the armoury.
The cadet program encourages cadets to give back to their community, and we provide many opportunities for cadets to volunteer their time at Poppy drives with the Hespeler and Galt Legions, serving at Legion and other military association dinners, helping our Regimental brethren with their Stuff an Army Truck events, help set up or take down community events such as Candyland in Preston, Santa Claus Parades in Hespeler and Cambridge, the Canada Day parade, and many other events. We’ll even sign for your high school volunteer hours for your participation in these events – you can get the 40 hours you need before you finish grade 9, if you try!