Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Summer Camp

Aside from enjoying his summer weekly sailing sessions with his sea cadet corp, our son was able to have a wonderful experience of attending his awarded summer training camp.

How lovely the weather has been over the past eight weeks, heat waves from day to day, rarely ceasing to offer a reprieve in the weather. But, this type of summer weather pattern is just perfect for sailing! 

My goodness has our son ever learned much about being on the water this year, zooming about in his own sail boat with his friends. Course credits are being gathered, as we are able to use them on his schooling portfolio for graduation credits.

A three week stint at camp though was so very different from anything he's been part of this past year though, from not really knowing many in the 3400 attendees in session (some on various three week camps, some six weeks), to learning how to live amongst very sweaty and stinky boys in close quarters, during said extreme heat wave timing and thunder/lightning storm scares. 

Several times, a Sargent instructed the group of ten in his tent to gather bedding and clothing, to head down to the laundry room. A fresh scent was required for them all in body, clothing and bedding before returning, such a funny and yet remarkable thing for kids this age to tend to on their own like that.

Showers twice daily were the norm, and when temperatures rose over 40C for several days, all the cadets were ordered to tent restriction, as it was just way too hot to be outdoors. Air conditioning was non-existent, and the humidity was thick and soupy for all to contend with.

Each division in each platoon was awarded daily and weekly points for their tent inspections. After week one, falling behind compared to all the others in his "Foxtrot" platoon (about 290 kids), all the boys in division 30, decided they needed to catch up. How did they do this? Well, of course they all lay on the floor for night sleeps, sure to keep their hospital corners tightly made beds in coin bouncing shipshape.

Bouncing a quarter each day off their beds, and keeping a general orderly tidiness, gained them many points, that is until week three rolled around, and someone tipped off the higher ranks they hadn't been even sleeping in their beds.

One day, a few entered their tent, turned over the mattresses and took off the bedding. Instructions were; Make your bed! Since they hadn't for almost two weeks, it turned into a great relearning experience. This was all great fun for all the parents to hear! 

Last day, time to go home...

Cadet camp holds many memories for both our son and for us. Weekend camp schedules saw nothing formally planned, with free evenings after 6pm. on Saturday and Sunday all day. Many local parents drove to the base to pick up their kids for a permitted leave. The security system one had to pass through in order to collect one's own son was something else, with three check points, a long walk into the camp from the permitted parking area, but I'm grateful for their care of all the kids with regards to safety while there. 

Week one, he was very excited to get back to camp. He just couldn't wait to return. Adrenaline was at an all time high.

Week two, he was happy to be home, to sleep and sleep, and sleep again after mass. He was sore, but he kept up his running, push ups, sit ups and all round muscle limbering.

Week three, he wasn't in a big hurry to get back, slept for twenty hours in total, all the while remembering that this particular week, the strict discipline had increased to take some of the fun out of camp. Well, that is, there were assigned chores to be done, bodies were screaming for mercy with muscle aches and pains from the challenging workouts and sporting activities, and he had been assigned toilet duty one fine afternoon with two others, mostly as they were caught complaining, of all things. (smiling) He was so grossed out by the condition of toilets and the walls (!), cleaning toilets at home will prove to be an easy task me thinks from now on.

No outside civic clothing was allowed at camp, and no cell phones were permitted during the day either, with the exception of one hour to line up and make quick telephone calls home. No ipods or other assorted devices were also allowed, just good old fashioned technilogical detoxing was in session.

Camp attire was given to all cadets, the standard t-shirt and gray shorts. The assigned hat was a Tilley, so very funny to see them all blending into one another. Higher ranking officers were dressed differently, and whoa to the cadet who referred to someone with the wrong rank. Chore duty was assigned. For any one of these cadets, learning the ranks of other groupings was a great learning experience. Looking for hat color, cresting, or camp clothing indicated which answer to use for the "Yes Sir" answers.

When entering and leaving the base, full uniform was required, and bags were searched before returning to camp again. No aerosols or food were allowed in tents. There were only about a dozen of "white tops" in attendance, our son was a curiosity of sorts, obviously standing out with his own uniform. 

My oh my, the respect was HUGE when they changed for their Graduation Day. All looked very well groomed in their uniforms, and their presentation was spot on. They worked hard the night before to launder their clothing, and shine their boots. Many also sported new haircuts, just 4.00 on base to get one.  


When Graduation day crept closer, most of the cadets had not seen each other in their proper attire. So many army, air, and very few sea cadets were in attendance, but the plethora of ranks and titles were something to learn. Even kilts were present for those from the "Queen's Army", in rank and in the bands with bagpipes included.

Graduation Day was something else! A huge paved area used for the entire group of cadets to march in, with spectators everywhere! 

There were full families present, with grandparents. I met a family from New Brunswick, a family who drove to Ontario just to be near their son while he was at camp. 

The parental dedication was to be admired. And the kids by this time had grown in maturity, responsibility, regimented discipline, and determination to make their platoon leaders proud. 

I was so blown away with this day, happy little tears crept into my eyes at the scene before me. I was so pleased to be there, not only to witness all these teens I'd seen on weekends perform on parade, but to hear the respect for authority during each pickup throughout the three weeks, for the respect developed towards one another, and to see the discipline obviously having blossomed from their rigid schedules with morning jogging rise at 6am, to the big crash at night at 10pm.

Surely my photos just don't do the scene any justice either. I had to figure out where my son was in the crowd, and then find a place where I could take the photos. Before us was a sea of cadets, these photos below only showed the groups to the left.

The woman shown here above was one of our son's actual Cadet Corps leader, so good to see a familiar face.

Singing of "O' Canada with the band playing

A super hot day, some of the kids were beginning to faint as inspection rolled on and on for quite some time. 

I was watching our son's row for some time, just to be sure, that was indeed him standing there. Can you see him too?

Here he is! See him yet? 

Hint; White top hat...

Oh, oh... I was watching very closely, and noticed the inspection gaining speed, only to slow down directly in front of our son. I wondered if his boots weren't shinny enough, or his shirt not pressed well.

Later, when querying into the reason they stopped before him, he said they asked; "What was the best part of camp for you this year?"... smiling...

Some of the band playing together, an assortment of army, air, sea and Queen's army cadets.

After all of the presentations, and the speeches, finally the parade was happening, all the kids passing before their onlookers. The audience responded well, with lots of clapping, whistling and congratulations yelled out. 

For those kids who were attending for the first year, this whole scene was something else. They were proud to be there, marching in unison together, holding rank and looking great. 

Many parents left the bleachers (like me) to line the roads back to their tents, clapping and cheering them on. It was terrific to see this. So proud of all of them!

Can you tell it was a first for us too?

Back at their division tent areas, parents lined up to discharge their kids. First though, the goodbyes were tough. Some great friendships were formed. Amazing really, especially since living in close smelly quarters for a long while, with high temperatures surely had an influence on how these friendships were formed. A few short tempers were notable, at least we were told so. 

Again, the security was high! The last call sounded by the man in charge of their platoon. He yelled out; "How are you all feeling about now Foxtrot?"  And in return, all the kids shouted back; "Outstanding Sir". Many smiles broke out, and plenty of thumbs up rose to the sound of those voices offering such a grand reply.

Cheering for each division as they regrouped near to their platoons.
(poor cell phone photos, apologies for these two) 

Spontaneous push up sessions developed from their 
enthusiasm after graduation ceremonies ended.

Our kids had wristbands so they could collect their luggage. Two duffel bags allowed per person were to be collected in other units. And the parents had to present identification to collect their children, and to obtain the return of medical cards, graduation certificates, crest awards and financial checks. Yes, the kids were paid to attend this camp, a whole ten dollars per day. They worked for it, even amongst his platoon being a sports and leadership camp, they all worked! 

He was summoned into the office, and requested to fast track up to Phase 3, so he was where he should be with his later entry into the corps. 

There are no military aspirations for this boy, but after a full year of sailing, a myriad of volunteer work, participating in marksmanship and the drill team, he's ready to return again. 

Will he remain in Sea Cadets? So far, that answer is 'affirmative'.