Rachel Shaw was a bored 12-year-old when a Cadet poster changed her life.
The 100 Mile youth said she was in the 99 Mile Super Market when the poster caught her eye and “it was just like a lightbulb, that’s what I want to do.”
She joined the group as a way to get involved in the community. Now, four years later, there’s no turning back for Shaw, a Warrant Officer of the 2887 Rocky Mountain Rangers Royal Canadian Army Cadets who is also filling mentorship role in her unit.
“I’m like, I need someone to tell me what to do, but then I realize, no, I have to tell other people what to do,” Shaw, 16, said. “You have to realize they’re younger and in the same position you were in literally a couple of years ago. It’s so much fun to teach someone and see their eyes light up as they get it.”
The cadets returned to meeting in person last Thursday after a year of virtual studies and a month of outdoor meetings in October. The return to face-to-face meetings has been welcomed by everyone, said Tabitha Fournier, commanding officer of the 2887 RMR RCAC. While the unit did its best to carry on virtually last year, they lost several members who didn’t want to sit behind a computer for meetings or didn’t have access to reliable internet. They had 30 members pre-pandemic but now just 16.
“I love it and the cadets love it. I live in Williams Lake so to be back here in my office and see their faces,” Fournier said. “We could not be happier. We’re planning a lot of weekend activities to get out and do things with them and bring up their spirits as cadets again.”
New cadets can expect drill, discipline, leadership classes, bushcraft lessons and field training exercises, or FTX. Fournier said the cadets of 2887 RMR RCAC just recently completed an FTX training weekend in late October. While they didn’t spend the night outdoors, they spent Oct. 23-24 learning how to make improvised shelters and eating ready-to-eat meals, or MREs.
“They learned how to build a teepee, how to build a lean-to and then they got to pick one and go build them. They had a lot of fun and then we evaluated them,” Fournier said. “It was a lot of just doing to get them out there and having fun. Up here, we live in the bush, so if they know this stuff they can just take off on their day off and do it.”
One of the new cadets is Carter Finlayson, 12, who just joined last month. He said he was inspired to join because his great-grandfather and uncle were in cadets.
“A lot of people were saying it’d be a lot of fun and I enjoy the military so I thought I could try it,” Carter said. “I’ve found it really amazing. How you call people sir and ma’am is pretty cool.”
Carter said he enjoyed learning how to build the shelters but got a bit sick from eating his first apple maple oatmeal MRE. However, he added he intends to stick with cadets for the long haul.
“As I said, my uncle did it and he said he made it to sergeant before he had to quit because he moved. My goal is to get to a higher rank than him,” he said.
Shaw, meanwhile, said the cadets have been a valuable and engaging experience, helping her to make dozens of friends and learn a wide range of skills. Cadets also taught her to take pride in her appearance, she said, and how she conducts herself in the community. She added she has especially missed in-person meetings, which allow cadets opportunities for drills and uniform inspections, as well as camps.
Although the cadets will not be able to participate in Remembrance Day this year due to restrictions around COVID-19, Fournier is hoping two of her cadets will be able to guard the cenotaph during the drive-by ceremony. The rest of the unit will hold their own small parade at their hall where they have their own small cenotaph.
“It’s not a lot but it’s better than nothing, which we had to do last year, unfortunately,” Fournier said.
Youth between the ages of 12 and 18 interested in cadets are invited to come to the training centre at 5833 Horse Lake Rd. from 6-9 p.m. Thursdays to try out drills and classes.