Navigation, marksmanship and good, old-fashioned silliness were a few of the exceptional skills shown by Fort Smith’s cadet corps over the weekend during their final training exercise.
Throughout the weekend, cadets, aged 12-14, set up their own shelters in the woods, navigated the bush by compass and practiced shooting at targets, tying knots and building fires. They also honed their powers of communication and observation through a variety of skill-testing games, including using binoculars to locate a series of everyday objects hidden in the trees.
The exercise, designed to ascertain just how much the youth learned over the past year, was a test in knowledge as much as it was an opportunity to have fun.
“We wanted to assess all the skills that they learned throughout the year; more specifically field skills like navigation, wilderness survival and camping routines,” said Second Lieutenant Mathieu Doucet, acting training officer for the cadets program. “It allows them to meet the standard of qualification, thus allowing them to move on to the next rank.”
On off-time, the group shared social hour around the campfire, built elaborate forts and played an extreme form of hide-and-seek in the woods, complete with camouflage.
“The idea for us was to make it as enjoyable as possible,” Doucet said. “We combined all the skills together, teamed them up in different events and made an obstacle course out of it. It is testing, yes, but just like any professional athlete that does a sporting event, the basis for participating in that sport is that you have an interest in it.”
Doucet said the cadets did very well, with many surpassing expectations.
“For most, it wasn’t just hoping to pass; it was hoping to beat their own personal records. They were proving to themselves how good they are. The most important, I think, is most of them were satisfied with their results. None of them really had a bad day. They were all on their game. They went through the obstacles without struggling.”
The cadets will be given their promotions at the annual Cadet Review in mid-June.