For starters, lets get the dates out of the way. I arrived home tired and sick to be greeted by my family and girlfriend at the airport on the 17th of December and will depart in much the same manner on the 9th of January. Granted, I'll be less sick and tired. It was certainly great to see them but perhaps the nicest surprise was the sign they made for me that my nephew Lucas was holding which welcomed me home in grand fashion.
Christmas and indeed New Years eve went well full of good food, great people and an exciting new girlfriend. I won't bore you with the details but I sure do love my friends and family. They're good people.
Now, I assume you don't want to read about my vacation and perhaps are more interested in my experiences at the garrison in St. Jean... no worries friends, I'll share with you!
Basic Training is a 13 week course that takes people from all walks of life and indoctrinates them into the military lifestyle, aimed to teach military values and discipline the course is meant to be challenging and at times - brutal. However the course is not unfair and you are taught all that you need to achieve the goals set before you. Thus far I have been tested, poked, prodded and "motivated" far more than I have been before and while every day presents a new challenge I continue to meet them with my platoon of 60 some odd people and 6 instructors.
A normal day for us starts at around 5am and begins with morning PT (Physical Training). This is a 30-45 minute training session that involves a great deal of cardio... in other words, we run a lot. After a very quick shower and an even faster breakfast the last minute preparations for room inspections take place - there is a lot of hurried cleaning and folding as promptly at 7am it's time for the instructors to look over our rooms and see if they meet military specifications. Normally our first timing after inspection is 7:45 so it's a rush to lock up everything in our rooms again, put on the dress of the day, and head downstairs to "begin" the day.
The day can and does take on a variety of different challenges, we can be in a class learning about the rules of engagement and how they apply to us for 45 minutes then in a massive drill hall learning how to salute directly after. However what ties it all together is endless marching. We march everywhere and the rules of being in ranks must be adhered to... in other words, we can't talk and must present ourselves properly. This poses more of a challenge to some of my new friends than it does to others as you can imagine. We have some pretty chatty people in our platoon and have gotten "called" on it more often than I'd like.
All in all though, our days are very structured and while we may not know exactly what we're going to do next, we know that any information we do actually need has been given to us. We are often surprised, but rarely unprepared.
Lunch and Dinner are always exciting as 2500 recruits all attempt to eat in a 2 hour window all the while aware that they have someplace to be that they simply can't be late for. However, somehow it all works out and generally this is the more entertaining times of the day as recruits talk about whats happened so far today or what someone managed to do to earn the wrath of an instructor.
Classes, physical training and marching continues until around dinnertime and then if we've been good the remainder of the evening is ours. Bedtime remains around 9:00 and we are often running about until the last minute preparing for the next day.
That gives you an idea of the average day in the life as it were... however it doesn't quite cover the feel of it all. You're in a massive complex, everyone around you in in uniform and there is a certain tangible pride. You go from feeling a little silly when you first put on your uniform and learn to march properly to feeling a little odd when you put on civilian clothes and cease marching. It's an effective course and to be honest, I'm quite thrilled to be taking it.
They are teaching us lessons here than go beyond meeting timings or learning rank structures. They are teaching us how to be members of the Canadian Forces and of that... I am very proud.
I've added various pictures into a slideshow that should be available on the right navigation bar. If pictures are your thing you can see various things there;
- My family at Christmas
- My room before and after getting ready for inspection
- Pictures from the platoons trip to the war museum
- Random stuff I found entertaining.