CH 22: Junior Leadership and TQ 5 Courses
I was the only Reservist on the Junior Leadership Course (1988) in Summerside, P.E.I. and in some ways because of that I didn’t feel as pressured as the others. As usual there was lots of drill training and P.T. but what differed was that there were three large leadership tests both practical and scholastic. First we each had to learn a drill movement perfectly and then teach it to the class. The instructor said although I very loud I had to use my diaphragm more or I’d lose my voice. What the hell did that mean? I did lose my voice, it was raw and sore but I got a high mark on being a Drill Instructor. We had a leadership test that tested us as an instructor. We had to pick a topic and teach it in a classroom environment to the others. My voice had recovered enough before my turn came up and my lesson rocked. We were graded on the lesson plan, voice, body language, eye contact, keeping the students interested and being able to answer their questions. The hardest of all tests was the timed outdoor survival challenge. I thought it was so unfair when others got more people in their group and on top of that had a really easy task to complete. I had to lead my small group to build an outdoor emergency shelter! The materials we were given were heavy as hell and try as we might the shelter was terrible, it lean so much it looked like it was about to collapse. Still I passed the test but it was my lowest grade.
On the weekends we partied at the club on base but we also went site-seeing. Some students were from P.E.I. or Halifax and had cars so we all piled into them and went touring, over the weeks. In Cavendish we toured the Anne of Green Gables House. Then we went to Cavendish Beach famous for its’ clean, smooth white sand, but I was never one for beaches. There was also the Cavendish Boardwalk which was beautiful with its many quaint shops selling a variety of souvenirs, pottery, crafts, chocolates, and candy. A cool shop called Cow’s Ice Cream of course sold the largest selection of ice cream flavors that I’ve ever seen. They also sold t-shirts, sweatshirts, sleepwear, towels, caps, mugs, and more with their logo on it. At the end of the boardwalk by some picnic benches there was a small food stand that you could buy a Beavertail (fired pastry) to eat. We also went to the Enchanted Lands Theme Park which had around fifty animated storybook characters, mini-golf, and beautiful forest grounds and also the Sandspit Amusements Ltd Theme Park that had the Cyclone Roller-Coaster, ferris-wheel, bumper and paddle boats, mini-golf, and lots of other fun things to do. One Saturday night we went to a dinner theater about high school and ate rubbery, sandy clams. I was so excited that I had a chance to see the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island because I knew I’d never have that opportunity again.
Anne of Green Gables House, me on left in white shorts (sorry for fuzziness/ if you can repair photos using on-line program let me know at: email@example.com thanks)
Despite loving P.E.I., I was thrilled to get home. It was so busy during the weekdays on course we didn’t have time to get homesick, and most the weekends we were site-seeing but during any downtime at all I got depressed. When I got home I cried and gave big hugs to Kyle, Amber, and Dean. I physically and mentally felt the pressure and stress of military training melt away. Both Dean and poor Monique were happy to have me back, despite working out Dean’s work schedule it was exhausting shuffling the kids back and forth the whole time I was gone. Now things could go back to normal.
In winter to early spring of the new year 1989 I was sent on my Trades Qualification Level 5 Course (TQ5 )in Borden, Ontario. Dean was a Snowbird but they didn’t go to for practice to Comox, B.C. until April and they weren’t on the road until May. I was shocked to see that one of my instructors was Mandy my old roommate from my TQ3’s that I fought with like cats and dogs. I moaned thinking that I would be screwed now. In the first week, one day as the class emptied, she asked me to stay behind for a minute. Despite my married name we had immediately recognized one another. Mandy asked me about my life and nodded smiling sadly when I told her I was married and had two children, a two and a half-year old boy Kyle and a one year old girl Amber. I had heard rumor about her lesbian sexuality from day one of the course but I already knew about her tendencies for female companionship, even though in no way did it bother me. It was too bad to learn that she lived alone on the base. Although the military turned a blind eye to gays, they still could by no means live out in the open, and especially not in military housing. Mandy seemed years older, a lot more subdued, and there was a sadness in her eyes.
It must have been hard for her in the military but here she was a sergeant and an instructor. Mandy had gone far in her career, much farther than I did. I was still a lowly corporal and felt a little embarrassed by it. When I complimented her on her success she blushed and brushed my praise aside. Before I could stop myself I blurted out that I was still just a corporal and she had gone so far. Mandy in return told me I was extremely lucky to be married and have children, a real family to love. Silence fell between us as we both ironically realized that we envied what the other had. Not that I was unhappy with my family but a successful career would have been nice. And Mandy seemed satisfied with her professional achievements but I’m sure that a normal life style would have made her life a hell of a lot easier. It dawned on me that maybe both a great family life and successful career were a near impossible achievement for all but a few. And even if someone boasted they had both, I bet if one looked close enough you’d see holes in their so-called perfectly balanced life. Maybe, hopefully Mandy came close to the same realization as I did and it gave her some comfort like it did to me.
After that conversation it was as if the unpleasant past was forgotten, and we had a new-found respect for each other, following our teacher student roles comfortably without conflict. Many years later it was this short exchange between us that I remembered more than the whole course itself which was just the typical mix of drill, P.T., inspections, and classroom instruction. I never heard anything about Mandy again, like many people who come and go in our lives, but throughout the years the odd time I thought of her and hoped she finally found love, someone to share her life with.