“I’m just going to call you ‘newspaper lady’ I hope you don’t get offended,” said my 14-year-old supervisor Bryce Warner.
My journey as a “newspaper lady” army cadet started around 12:30 p.m. Aug. 2 when I met Morning Star photographer, Lisa VanderVelde, and Wayne Emde, the unit public affairs representative, at the Vernon army camp.
It was time to play Royal Canadian Army Cadet for a day.
I was presented with a cadet field training uniform: green cargos, a plain T-shirt, and light jacket. I soon discovered that I have a serious issue with knot tying, as clothing supervisor Sandra Patterson politely tucked my pants into my boots and showed me that to tie boots, the system follows some odd criss-cross-apple-sauce maneuver.
VanderVelde and Emde snickered as I re-tied my laces.
Finally it was time for the course. In the summer, around 1,770 army, navy and air cadets flock to the army camp which also houses around 190 staff cadets and 200 adult staff.
The cadet’s are typically between 12-18 before they age out, Emde said.
From the outside, the camp doesn’t look like much. I was surprised to see rows of barracks, halls, and warehouses. They even have an indoor shooting range.
Emde said people driving along the highway don’t often notice the depth of the camp.
We stopped at the shooting grounds, just above the camp on the hill.
The last gun I shot was my dad’s .22 when I was 16. So when they told me I was going to be shooting an air rifle I would be lying to say I wasn’t nervous.
They put me in the capable hands of cadet trainer Michael Turner who showed me how to properly handle the rifle.
First things first, I had to get into the right position. I laid down on the blue foam mat, with my left leg bent. As a left-handed shooter, it took me a while to get used to the motions.
I had to check and make sure the rifle was unloaded and safe. “OK, so the safety catch is on, the chamber is unloaded, and I have to pump the rifle,” I thought as I struggled due to no upper arm strength.
“Imitate me,” said Turner. “Red you’re dead,” he said as he showed me the colour of the safety switch.
“Don’t get your fingers trapped.”
Another important thing to remember.
Oh, and never point the gun near someone else, that’s the most important lesson.
We went through the motions a few times before I was able to load the pellets.
I was the only left shooter in my squad, and was assigned a supervisor, who seemed nervous about my positioning.
“Try laying your leg like that,” he said as I stretched my foot first one way, then the other.
My hands were shaking as I lined up my scope with the target. Lying on the ground in an army uniform with a rifle did make me feel badass, however.
I didn’t do too badly, Warner reassured me, as we looked at my target. I managed to hit it, leaving several small holes on the black marker.
For spending less than an hour shooting, I was impressed.
Some of the cadets took me for an officer, and asked me questions. For 22, standing at five-foot-five, it’s understandable to some I look 16 in uniform.
My arms were jelly by the end of the training, but I felt an adrenaline rush and was glad I got to spend an afternoon working on my mad skills.
To get involved as an army cadet call 250- 549-5800 or visit the cadet Facebook page VernonCSTC.
The Final Parade and Sunset Ceremony for cadets takes place Thursday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.