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Army cadets paddle through the summer

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Cadets paddle through McCrea Lake on the final day of their three-day expedition. (Photo credit: Lt Kendra Rose, RCSU Central – New Media and Productions Officer)

Most teenagers like to spend their summers at home, hanging out with friends and playing video games, but Army cadets aren’t your average teenagers. Instead, they chose to spend their summer immersed in the outdoors, paddling through Ontario Lakes.

For many Canadian youth, participating in cadet summer training is the highlight of their year. In late July, cadets from across the country came together at Blackdown Cadet Training Center in Borden, Ontario to participate in the Expedition Team Leader Course for the first time since 2019. 

On this course, cadets have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills while doing adventure activities such as hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and back country camping over the course of nine days. 

“My experience with expedition was like no other,” said Cadet Warrant Officer Lyn Reade. “The bonds we made and getting to develop our canoe skills was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”  

One portion of the expedition involved a three-day canoe trip. Starting the trip at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, the first few hours on the water was spent getting the cadets comfortable in the canoes, as well as going over paddle strokes. 

“I had never canoed before coming to this course, so it was hard, but over time I started to get the hang of it,” said Cadet Warrant Officer Angela Whiskeyjack.

As the trip progressed, the cadets worked together as a team and were able to continue to build their canoe and paddling skills. They had the opportunity to review on-water safety protocols and rescue techniques. They even had a chance to swim and have some down time around the fire. 

“Canoeing with the cadet program was a challenging, yet rewarding experience,” said Cadet Warrant Officer Matt Rivera. “It has helped me develop skills that will be useful now and later on in life.” 

Throughout the expedition, cadets rotated through acting as the ‘team leader’ where they got the chance to navigate and guide their peers through sections of the route. In this role, the cadet is responsible for checking in on the wellbeing of their team members, motivating them and ensuring everyone is able to meet all timings set for the day.

The cadets finished the canoe portion at McCrea Lake, having paddled approximately 25 kilometers. For most, this was their first time doing an overnight canoe activity of this magnitude. They brought the canoes off the water, organized and loaded all equipment onto trucks and trailers, prior to heading back to Blackdown Cadet Training Center to transition to the next stage of the expedition.

“Being a cadet with one of Canada’s best youth programs, with experiences like the expedition program, you are able to develop confidence, self-discipline and leadership skills – all while having fun, and meeting new friends.” said Cadet Warrant Officer Matt Rivera. “Getting to work with my peers and the staff was amazing, and I would do it all again if I had the chance.” 

Expeditions, like this one, are designed to provide cadets the opportunity to continue their personal development through challenging, high intensity, high output activities that take them outside their comfort zone. Canada represents the best playground for teenagers interested in the outdoors and the Royal Canadian Army Cadets is the organization of choice for teens and adults to learn out of the classroom — exploring the planet the way it should be. Youth between the ages of 12 to 18 who crave exciting outdoor activities where their personal limits as individuals and team members are tested will love what our organization has to offer.