Army cadets from New Glasgow and Truro braved the snows around Debert for a weekend-long introduction to winter outdoor living.
The six cadets, all non-commissioned officers, learned how to construct shelters from branches and bushes, build ice blocks to shield against gunfire and snowshoe across rough ground. Helping them were reservists from the Nova Scotia Highlanders (North).
“I feel lucky to be in a position to learn things that others may not have the opportunity to, and use that to better our cadet careers,” said Cadet Warrant Officer Blade Turner-MacLean, 16, from Bass River. “It will give me experience in different skill fields and expertise so I can help the younger cadets with problems, no matter what they are.”
In future, such problems may include tobogganing and erecting an army-style Arctic tent to shield cadets from extreme cold. Building other makeshift shelters and lighting fires can mean the difference between life and death in cold-weather environments.
Turner-MacLean, a member of 2928 Truro Royal Canadian Army Cadets, said he appreciated the chance to work alongside older and more experienced members of the military reserves.
The winter training from Jan. 10-12 was also a chance for cadets to develop their ‘soft skills’ such as leadership and teamwork. Back in Truro, Turner-MacLean is responsible for training 10-15 cadets.
While the training exercise was a chance to develop leadership skills, it also allowed Turner-MacLean and his fellow cadets to learn in a setting where they did not have to be responsible for others.
“There’s a little less responsibility of looking after and teaching [cadets], so we can learn from the experiences,” said Turner-MacLean.
After he leaves the cadets, Turner-MacLean is considering going to university and a possible career in law enforcement, but has not quite decided.
But his New Glasgow colleague Jolie Thibodeau is sure she wants to join the Canadian Armed Forces after finishing school, likely as a member of the military police.
Thibodeau, a cadet warrant officer with 219 New Glasgow Legion Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, says being on the annual winter exercise will teach her useful skills for her future military career.
“I’m really enjoying it,” said Thibodeau. “It’s my second year [on this exercise] and I’ve learned a lot from the Highlanders. We don’t always get this in the army cadets, so it’s good to be with a different group of people.”
Captain Allan Day, based with the New Glasgow cadets, said all army cadet units in the province are affiliated to a parent military unit.
“All our cadets are Highlander cadets,” he said.
Such winter survival and warfare training aims to prepare regular Canadian Armed Forces members for domestic and international operations in cold environments.
For cadets, joining such exercises helps them build up their confidence and self-sufficiency in the field. There is no obligation for cadets to join the regular military, although some do choose a career in the armed services.
Day said the Nova Scotia Highlanders have held annual winter training exercises for several years and invite the cadets to join them.
A total of six cadets took part in the training. Turner MacLean was the only one from the Truro detachment and the other five were from New Glasgow.