Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Passing basic training in your forties

Well, I did it! I passed basic training, on August 26th I was on the parade square at St. Jean garrison in St. Jean sur Richelieu Quebec with 160 other graduates. Finally!!! It did take me a little longer than most, but I take solace in the fact that many my age never complete it. In fact a lot of people aren't able to get through no matter what their age, because it isn't easy.

Let me give you a glimpse into a pretty typical day. At the recruitment centre and through the literature provided I was told that a typical day starts with getting up at 5 AM, I wish!!!

Actually some mornings the first timing is 5 AM, having a morning jog isn't unusual and it usually starts at 5 AM. That means getting up, dressed in your PT gear(physical training, shorts and t-shirt) and formed up downstairs. After 30-40 minutes of jogging, push ups, sit ups, squats...its back upstairs, 5-10 flights (elevators are out of bounds) for a two minute shower and then getting changed for breakfast. Back down those stairs in the appropriate dress of the day, properly shaved, then back up those ####ing stairs again to set up for an inspection that comes at 7 AM.

Think you might want to skip breakfast? Not enough time? Hah, too bad! You have to have your ID card swiped at each meal and meals are mandatory. So if you can't get your kit laid out for inspection in 15/20 minutes, well you'll just have to learn how. And that doesn't include time for 'station jobs', cleaning and keeping tidy the common areas like laundry rooms, bathrooms and hallways.

Sound like fun? Your bed has to be made the proper way, with the sheets tucked in at 45 degree angles....Boots polished with a nuclear shine, all the clothes in your locker properly folded and shirts ironed with starch, rifle dismantled and laid out on the bed in the proper format.

I heard of one guy who lost it just prior to inspection. With only a minute or so left before staff came to inspect his space he was laying out his rain gear, bush hat and gloves...fingers toward the pillow, thumbs toward the wall. Only problem, he slipped and banged his arms on the wall sending everything sprawling across his bed....his gas mask and carrier, boots, weapon. Everything in disarray and with no time to get it back in order he started screaming, "#### IT!!!!", while proceeding to have a tantrum and making a mess of his desk as well.

Inspections normally took about an hour, given that there would be 3 or 4 staff inspecting about 50-60 recruits.

After inspection there might be a class on military knowledge, or a physical training session in the gym or pool. There were also lots of drill lessons: learning how to halt, about turn, present arms....and the older you get the harder it is to learn.

Ruck sack marches of 3, 7 and 13km with up to 75 lbs of gear on your back. Dragging another recruit 20-30 metres along the ground, digging out a box (about 3'x7' and 3' deep) filled with gravel in six minutes. Obstacle courses with climbing walls and logs to run over, crawling through pipes on your hands and knees. And push ups, push ups, push ups. Get some one's rank wrong, gimme 20. Have a button undone? That's 25.

Fitness of course is huge, and you may have seen a very recent article about how the CF has had to make changes to Basic because of so many out of shape recruits. Its true, about 10% of those coming in, based on my observations, are unable to meet the minimum requirements. I had no problem with it, but then I'm not addicted to video games like a lot of younger guys.

Anyway its onward and upward for this middle aged soldier, I'm now posted in Ontario for further training but first I'll be heading out west shortly for a month long training exercise.

Here's a picture from my graduation, sorry for the proof but the real one is on order so it'll have to do for now. Thanks for reading, I probably won't be able to update this space until October sometime.

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