SERVICE SECOND TO NONE – Chapter 02: CADETS 2nd and 3rd YEARS; SUMMER CAMP

SERVICE SECOND TO NONE – Chapter 02: CADETS 2nd and 3rd YEARS; SUMMER CAMP

During the second year of cadets we would study the intermediate levels of courses from the first year as well as new subjects such as the principles of flight, propulsion, radio communication, and leadership. We were no longer the rookies; we smiled at the handful of new recruits. This time there were no girls. Kristen and I felt a little depressed because Hope wasn’t there anymore and on top of that Kristen lost the company of Quentin and Selena. And to top it all off Keisha and Kaitlin were forbid to go out with us outside of cadets. Well at least I still had Violet but my poor sister didn’t mesh with her very well and became a bit of a loner. Kristen was now sixteen and got a part-time job at fast food place so she didn’t go to gym on Wednesdays any more now to think of it not many people attended there weren’t enough to play volleyball, basketball, or floor hockey. How can you play team sports with only five people? Then Kristen quit the drill team after Christmas so with her and Hope gone it wasn’t the same it made it harder for me to motivate myself to take the long trip in the freezing temperatures out to the hangar when once again attendance was at an all-time low. Also having Kristen’s and my ex-boyfriend as drill instructors didn’t help matters. If I didn’t know better Quinte and Sven acted aloof and smug and Keisha and Katilin expressed how sorry they were to hear about the breakup. I didn’t care about the guys dirty looks and I didn’t need anyone’s pity I almost quit right then but I held on.

In the spring Violet, Geoff, and I began practicing drill in her parking lot once again. Geoff made a sexual advance one day when Violet was too sick then Violet ignored and avoided me that following Monday. She even gave me the cold shoulder at drill practice. Did Geoff tell her what happen and blamed it on me?

At the year-end ceremony, awards and promotions were announced as usual. This time Violet won the Best Female Cadet Award and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Kristen. We didn’t have a big drill competition this time because it was held every two years. All of the second year cadets advanced another rank. Kristen, Violet, and I had all applied for two spots to go to a three week summer camp for air cadets in Bagotville, Quebec that brought everyone from Quebec and the Ottawa Valley squadrons together. There was also a six week camp for older cadets.  The army cadets had a summer camp in Valcartier while the sea cadets actually spent their time on the HMCS Quebec. I was happy to be chosen but when I heard Violet’s name too I groaned. She was still not talking to me even though I had finally cornered her and asked her what was wrong. She just gave me an icy stare and walked away. I had gotten to the point that I was mad and just ignored her back. What was summer going to be like with her there? On top of that yet again Kristen came in third.

I got my parents to sign the camp consent form and I followed the checklist they gave us of what to bring. A bus with other cadets already seated pulled up to the barracks to pick up Violet and I, we nodded at each other but that was it. We didn’t even sit together on the bus. When we finally arrived in Bagotville I saw streams of cadets getting off of other buses and tried to see the different squadron cap badges they were wearing. The instructors quickly quieted us down and separated us into four large squadrons. Like normal females were out- numbered by the males so we were all put in the same squadron.

The head instructor handed out a copy of the daily schedule so we couldn’t use any excuses for being late. Every morning at o-six hundred hours we would have barracks and kit inspection then off for breakfast. After that we would have morning parades to practice drill because at the end of the course there would be a drill competition and our graduation parade. When lunch was over we’d be in the classroom to study Canadian government as well as military history, customs, and traditions. I moaned and sighed thinking how we already learned that so it would be super boring. Just before supper we’d have gym. After we ate we’d be given time to study and work on our kit. We had very little free time before lights out at twenty-two hundred hours (ten o’clock). For two days they’d teach us marksmanship using an air rifle and we’d also learn range safety procedures. That was something to look forward to; something new. We’d also be treated to a glider flight which would also be fun. And to top it all off was a twenty-four hour over-night survival training exercise. I wondered if it would be fun like a camping trip or cold and miserable. In the end a graded report would be sent back to our squadron captain. A groan rose from the crowd as the schedule was read aloud but that was the way the military was, even cadets.

I hated getting up so early but I always passed inspection with flying colors. The drill portion was easy and enjoyable for me because of being on the drill team but some cadets had trouble with it so I helped them practice after supper. Classroom studies were long and boring. The physical training portion was tough ranging from track to team sports. I hated running and always was exhausted after a run while Violet seemed to find it easy with her long legs, but I excelled at the team sports like volleyball. The squadrons competed against each other for bragging rights. When it came to the marksmanship I sucked, even though the guys tried to give me pointers on how to aim. In our sparse free time there was a canteen with food for sale, a couple of dart boards, a shuffle board, a few tables, and a dance area. I never saw Violet there but I went several times to be sociable despite her dirty looks. I was tired of her crap.

The majority of the cadets were really thrilled to have the opportunity to go up in a glider. A pilot gave us instruction on how the glider worked so we’d be a little familiar with it and enjoy the flight more. The small tow plane’s engine noisily covered most of the flight instructor’s explanation of what we’d be doing and as I clumsily climbed into the glider behind him I wished that I had heard more. My heart was beating like crazy! The plane lifted us up and then let go leaving us in the peaceful beautiful sky riding air currents and listening to the wind whistle by. When we began to descend I was jolted back to reality as a down draft caught us. It all happened so fast that I wanted to back up again.

The twenty-four hour over-night survival training exercise was actually cool. We learned how to tie knots and lashings, construct a shelter, build and start a fire, be safe while boating (using a canoe), and identify regional wildlife. I found it interesting and fun and was happy to be active outside. During the night we all sat by the roaring fire cooking hot dogs and marshmallows while singing and telling stories. On the down side, we weren’t happy with the sleeping arrangement. We all had a terrible night sleep because of the hard bumpy ground and cold temperatures. In the morning the runny porridge and long march back to barracks didn’t improve our mood either. I thought if only we got to sleep in cabins.

When we returned we had a full day long sports competition, the drill competition, and the graduation parade then it was all over. The three weeks flew by and before I knew it we had all said our good-byes and I was home again. A course report was sent back to each cadet’s squadron captain and our captain said that Violet and I both had excellent reports. He never did say if one of us did better than the other; I was curious why not. Was there no grade or score for the course or did he not want to cause competitiveness between us?

In the third year of cadets we learned intermediate and advanced levels of the same courses we took the last two years but we were also taught new subjects such as navigation and instructional techniques. Kristen was seventeen and I was sixteen. I was thinking about applying at a fast food place but was freaked out about giving back the correct change because my math was so bad but my dad helped my practice until I was comfortable enough to apply as a cashier. While Kristen began her second year at work there were no job openings so I applied at different fast food place and was hired so Kristen quit and got hired there too. The workplace opened up a whole new social network that overshadowed cadets a little and was part of the reason that I didn’t rejoin the drill team. It was the new job, Kristen quitting, and Violet being on the team that made me decide to quit. Now Kristen and I only attended cadets on Monday nights so cadets and work were fighting for our time.

As a treat for the cadets our captain arranged a special outing for a small fee from each person who wanted to go, to pay for the bus. It was the 1979 World Series Baseball Game between The Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. The slogan had been “O.K. Blue Jays let’s play ball” for the whole season leading up to this exciting climax. Kristen and I both went and loved the whole experience of the first and only professional ball game I’d ever attend. The smell of hotdogs, the roar of the fans, and fresh air in the open stadium was quite amazing. Not that either Kristen or I knew any of the game rules we were just enjoying the experience. The Blue Jays won on a thrilling home run by Carter in game six; I had no clue who he was but I saw his home run and protected my ears from the deafening sound of the fans.

The biggest news that quickly became known in cadets was that my sister Kristen had decided not to return to school in the fall and applied for a trade in the regular military instead. Quentin and Selena told her it was a mistake to quit which only fuelled her resolve even more. I could see the anger in her face as she told me that they weren’t her friends any more, they dumped her, so they weren’t allowed an opinion. Our mother on the other hand encouraged Kristen to join because she wanted us kids to leave the nest so she could divorce our father. As it turned out Kristen did have to wait nine months for an opening in her trade so she could have completed another grade. In May as the cadet year neared to a close Kristen finally won the Best Female of the Year award.

When Kristen finally got the call to go to boot camp and left I really had to decide whether or not to go back to cadets in September. I felt like I was deserted and realized that it just wasn’t the same anymore without Hope or Kristen, Keisha and Kaitlin were casual friends I saw once a week, and with Violet not talking to me I felt abandon. I came to the depressing conclusion that I was going to keep working part-time while in school but cadets was over for me.