CHAPTER 9: FAREWELL TO BOOT CAMP
When we got back to the base the last week was crazy. Just when we thought we were safe the instructors tormented us with full day long drill practice with our rifles. We all hobbled and marched at the same time back to the barracks and poured ourselves into bed. All of our classes were finished and we received our course reports in the middle of the week. I was worried about how I would do because of the trouble we had with the corporal, but I came in average which was a miracle given the situation. Anyone who had failed was already RTU or re-coursed. The support trades such as supply, administration, finance, transport driver, M.P., and aircraft technicians trained in Borden, Ontario. Electrician and communication trades were trained in Kingston, Ontario at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics (CFSCE). Army personnel were trained at Camp Wainwright in Alberta. There were a few that weren’t going for training right away such as this one poor guy who was being immediately deployed to Alert, NWT for six months!
Some of us wanted to write to each and were told we could send mail to the person’s name, general delivery, and the base name and it would get to them. I wondered how many people would really write. The pregnant girl in our squadron put in a release from the military and moved into the P.M.Q.’s (private married quarters) with the P.E.R.I. I couldn’t imagine going through the hell of boot camp only to leave the military right after graduating! Noreen and I were both going to C.F.B. Borden for our trades training while Jack was going to C.F.B. Kingston. Jack cried and made a huge scene about staying together as a couple, which I corrected him and said although I has a crush on him and dated him it wasn’t a lasting relationship. He still refused to accept my answer so I had to finally agree we were a couple just to appease him.
Our graduation parade went off without a hitch and some the recruits were lucky to have family in the stands but many of us that lived outside of the Maritimes didn’t, Noreen, Jack, and I included. As soon as we marched off of the parade square we signed over our rifles back to the sergeant who took them away on a huge locked rifle rack. There was a small social after the parade and then we rushed back to the barracks to pack and get ready for graduation dinner. It was the first time we’d get to wear our number ones and the first mess dinner we’d attend. Mess dinners were a fancy meal that was held for graduations, retirements, and very special occasions in the military. It was also the first time that we weren’t marched to a destination. We just were given the time and told to walk over on our own. We fought swinging our arms and keeping cadence because it was so ingrained in us. Inside rows of tables with flowers, fancy dishware, and tables covered with white table clothes filled the small room. At the front of the room was a row of tables for the instructors. There was arranged seating by name-tags on the tables and I groaned when I saw that I didn’t really know the people around me. A menu with the choice of roast beef or Cornish hen was offered. There were even waiters who provided us with an infinite supply of wine. My glass didn’t ever get lower than half full and I just stopped drinking because it was too much. After we ate came the speeches and Noreen won an award for Most Improved Female Recruit. At the end we all stood up and sang Farewell to Nova Scotia that we had practiced. The chorus line went;
Farewell to Nova Scotia, a sea bound coast let your mountains dark and dreary be.
For when I’m far away on the briny ocean tossed will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?
I thought it was a weird song to pick since it really didn’t have anything to do with our experience in boot camp, except being the location of course. But I remembered those words many years later.
I saw that the girl who got pregnant with the P.E.R.I. did graduate with us but heard that she got released from the military, married the guy, and moved into married quarters. There was no way I could fathom going through all of boot camp hell on earth only to quit right afterwards. I left the thirteen week boot camp feeling in the best physical shape I ever had been. The group experience brought all of us closer together and taught us the importance of teamwork. We all felt proud of our accomplishments and were looking forward to the next adventure the military had to offer us.