Friday, April 12, 2019

Stage III Marksmanship (2019) – Part 2

Reveille was at 6am on the morning of April 6.  Everyone crawled out of their beds and got ready for the day.  Today was going to be busy & competitive.  Ten shooting teams lined up at the mess hall for breakfast at 7am.  Most of the teams were from Manitoba.  I met my five cadets there; we all looked tired.  Breakfast consisted of the usual eggs, bacon, ham, hash browns, cereal, water, juice, and milk.  It’s the same menu wherever you go in cadets.
Hangar where the competition took place.
I spoke to the team captain about the day’s schedule.  Our first timing was 8:45am for rifle zeroing.  I suggested we be at least 15 minutes early for all of our competition timings.  Rifle zeroing is when you shoot and make adjustments to your sights so that you have the best possible chance of hitting the targets.  Where you aim is where you hit.

We arrived at the hangar at 8:30am and walked to our assigned room.  The firing range was already live with cadets zeroing-in their rifles.  We always had to have our safety glasses with us and on at all times.  Better safe than sorry.  The cadets put on their shooting jackets and got out their air rifles.  We slowly made our way to our assigned shooting lanes and waited for our turn.
Our zeroing-in relay lasted 30 minutes and the cadets could shoot an unlimited number of pellets.  My cadets used their time wisely, shooting, making adjustments, and then repeating the process.  The SIUS targeting systems told the cadets exactly where their pellets were hitting the paper.  If the corps had the money, I would buy at least one of these systems.  By the end of the relay, they felt pretty confident.  Our next timing wasn’t until 11:00am, so the cadets would have free time until then. 

One of my cadets decided to take
a character poster photo of me.
Cadets who are not shooting were allowed to go back to the dormitory and hang out.  Just before they left for the dormitory, I ordered my cadets to sit in a circle and form a pentagon using their right hands holding wrists.  I took a picture of it and said, “You’re all a team now.  Work like one and support each other.” 
The hangar sat next to the tarmac.  I walked through an open gate and took several pictures of the planes and control tower.  There was no one around.  The tarmac looks really old and cracked.  A renovation/replacement is needed.

The cadets were ready and standing behind their assigned shooting lanes at 10:45am.  They patiently waited as the cadet helpers changed the paper targets.  It was my job to make sure my cadets had the right number of pellets in their bowls.  I was also allowed to give advice during the timed relay.  All three relays for Saturday would be shot prone, with each cadet required to shoot 20 times within 30 minutes. 
I stood back and let the cadets follow the rules of the range.  I was following them too but I didn’t want to constantly interrupt my cadets’ focus and determination.  I only stepped in when I needed to.  I took some photographs to be published on the corps Facebook page at a later date.
Mess Hall & Gym
The next relay was at 1:15pm, so the cadets decided to have lunch at the mess hall.  There’s a small gym in the same building and the cadets played some basketball to pass the time.  The gym is actually smaller than the gym in Arctic Bay.  It didn’t matter.  The cadets were just glad to have a space to run around and play some sports.

Another two prone relays followed in the afternoon.  We followed a simple routine of showing up to the hangar, getting our shooting jackets & rifles, and then walking to the firing range as a team.  The cadets would wait until the Range Safety Officer (RSO) begin giving instructions.  When the thirty-minute relay would start, I would observe my cadets and make sure they fired all their pellets before the time ran out.  The last relay of the day for my cadets was 3:30pm.

The cadets packed up their rifles and organized their shooting jackets in a neat pile after their last relay.  The went over to the cadet canteen and had slushies before dinner.
Slushies before dinner.
The competition organizers gave the teams the option of going back to the hangar in the evening to practice shooting the SIUS targets in the standing position.  The relays on Sunday were all going to be standing so any early practice would be helpful.  I’m glad my cadets agreed.  They went over and shot several standing relays.  After that, we all went back to the dormitory for the night.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Stage III Marksmanship (2019) – Part 1

I woke up really early on the morning of April 4 and took a quick shower.  Once out of the bathroom, I got dressed in my military CADPAT uniform.  I checked my suitcase and backpack to make sure I had everything ready to go.  It was time for another out-of-town cadet trip.
3045’s Marksmanship Team of 2019 did very well at the Stage II Postal Shoot and was selected to compete at the Stage III Territorial competition . . . in Gimli, Manitoba.  (The Northwestern cadet region is attached & administered by the Prairie region, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba).  The Postal Shoot is when the northern cadet corps receive competition scoring targets from Winnipeg and have their selected cadets shoot them.  The targets are then mailed back to Winnipeg to be reviewed by a team of officers.  The officers select the best teams to advance to Stage III.  Stage I is creating your marksmanship team.
I was taking a team of five cadets to Gimli.  They weren’t required to wear nor bring their green uniforms but I ordered them to wear their 3045 hoodie sweaters so that it would be easier for me to identify them at the airports.  They were all smiles and excited when I met them at the airport.  I was excited too.  This would be my first time visiting the military base at Gimli. 
I would be gone for three school days plus a weekend.  I prepared three days of lesson plans for the supply teacher.

We flew to Pond Inlet first and waited inside the terminal while the ground crew refuelled the plane.  There were some clouds in the sky but overall, the weather was clear.  We were told to board the plane after twenty-five minutes. 

The flight to Iqaluit was uneventful.  We landed in the big city at 12:15pm.  The sun shined brightly over us as we disembarked and walked into the large red terminal building.  We hung around for forty minutes before going through security and then boarding the large First Air Boeing 737 plane.  We lifted off into the sky at 1:15pm, bound for Ottawa.
First Air’s Iqaluit-Ottawa (and vice-versa) flight route, I personally believe, is a showpiece for tourists, investors, and politicians.  The service you get on this flight is more and better than the other flight routes that First Air provides.  The food is better and alcohol is served.  Iqaluit draws a lot of tourists and passenger traffic because it’s the territorial capital, the largest city in Nunavut, and has all the amenities of a southern city.  Every time I hear someone praising First Air’s flight service, I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes and saying, “You just came off the Ottawa-Iqaluit flight, didn’t you?”  The flights to the smaller communities are okay, but don’t expect large meals, alcohol, and a lot of space. 
I did eat some of the food they provided on the flight, but I refrained from consuming alcohol.  Military officers are strictly prohibited from consuming alcohol when escorting cadets.

We landed in Ottawa at 5pm.  We picked up our luggage and caught the shuttle to a nearby hotel.  We would be staying the night.  I let the cadets settle into their rooms before meeting them in the main lobby an hour later.  I told them we still had plenty of time before our next flight and asked them what they wanted to do?  They informed me that they wanted to go somewhere for dinner and then shopping.  After throwing around names of restaurants, we settled on Montana’s.  I called a taxi to take us there.  The cadets ordered ribs and I enjoyed a steak.  The remainder of the evening was spent shopping at a nearby Wal-Mart.
Waiting for our flight to Toronto.
Toronto skyline.
We were up early the next morning, checking out of the hotel, and catching the shuttle to the airport.  An hour later we were waiting for our flight to Toronto at the departure gate.  We boarded an Air Canada turboprop plane.  I got a window seat next to the landing gear.  The flight lasted 50 minutes.  I took a few photos of the distant Toronto skyline and filmed the landing gear touching the runway.  Once we were all inside the terminal, we immediately started looking for the gate with our next flight number.
There was a Booster Juice smoothie bar near our gate and several of the cadets went inside to buy smoothies.  I went inside as well but not to buy a drink.  One of the walls was entirely covered by baseballs.  Well, almost entirely.  There were many empty spaces and upon closer inspection, the empty spaces formed the words, “Live Right”.  Must be a new slogan, I thought.

The flight to Winnipeg lasted a little over three hours.  The plane touched down at 2pm.  We were met by an officer in the Arrivals area.  He was easy to spot because he was also wearing CADPAT.  We collected our luggage and followed him to a military blue van.  He drove us to CFB Winnipeg.  There we met the Rankin Inlet cadets.  We hung around on base before eating dinner at the mess hall.  An hour later, we were driven to Polo Park to do some shopping for an hour or two.  It’s always a good idea to take northern cadets shopping at least once on a trip like this because there so much more to buy.

We finally hit the road at 7:30pm.  Both teams were driven to the Gimli Training Centre (GTC) in two blue military vans.  Gimli is north of Winnipeg and it takes an hour to drive there by car.  The GTC is actually a former military base now known as Gimli Industrial Park Airport.  The airport is home to several tenants, one of which is the Gimli Cadet Flying Training Centre (GCFTC).

We were taken to an old hangar where the competition would take place.  The exterior & interior need to be renovated.  Twenty-five shooting lanes were set up in the middle of the hangar.  This was my first time seeing the more expensive and modern equipment.  The equipment I’m speaking of are the SIUS Electronic Scoring Systems. 

Behind the SIUS target.
These Swiss-made products use metal acoustic microphones to measure the sounds made by the lead pellets hitting the paper targets.  The five microphones work in tandem to triangulate – (or would that be pentigulate?) – the precise spot where the lead pellet hit the target.  The result shows up on a computer screen that the shooter sees.  This technology makes it possible for competitors to shoot better than a perfect 10 bullseye.  A perfect shot is now a 10.9.  I was told by an officer that these systems are very expensive, around $1500 CAD per set.  A complete set comes with a target, screen, and panel. 

There were wires and extension cords everywhere.  All the systems were connected to each other and were fed to two laptop computers & two monitors at the back of the hangar.  The judges would be sitting here, monitoring & recording all the results.

Judges table.
The officers-in-charge showed us where our team rooms would be.  By this time, the Manitoba cadet teams were arriving.  The shooting area was only occupying a small part of the hangar.  Other areas were being used to store military supplies, disassembled aircraft, and aircraft engine parts.  It’s safe to assume that air cadets use this hangar to learn about aircraft and how they work. 

I had my cadets bring in our rifle cases and shooting jackets into our designated room.  They put on their shooting jackets and got their air rifles ready because they had to be checked.  The judges wanted to be sure that we were using authorized air rifles and hadn’t made any illegal modifications.  It took some time to get through the long checkup line but I was happy when the inspecting officer told me that all of our rifles were good to go.

The officer who picked us up at the Winnipeg Airport drove us to the barracks where we would be staying for the duration of the competition.  The cadets were given room keys and directions on how to find their rooms.  They were also told what areas were off limits and that the common area was the only place where the male & female cadets could hang out together.  As a CIC officer, I got my own room! 
Lights out was at 10:30pm.  I bet it took some time for the cadets to fall asleep because they were all excited about the first day of the competition. 

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Nunavut’s 20th Birthday

April 1, 2019 was a day of celebration for the people of Nunavut (Nunavummiut).  Canada’s third & newest territory was twenty years old.  Only a few memories remain in my mind of when Nunavut was created in 1999.  On April 1, the Northwest Territories was split in half and new territorial borders were created.  I remember reading about it in the Ottawa Citizen.  I always thought April 1 was a strange day to pick because it is heavily associated with April Fools Day.  However, that was the day the federal government and Inuit negotiators decided on and it became official when both parties signed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in 1993.  Much has changed since then.
Nunavut’s 20th birthday happened to be on a school day.  Inuujaq School organized an afternoon celebratory assembly in the gym.  I wore my sealskin tie & vest for the occasion.  Classes were encouraged to make decorations and dress in traditional Inuit clothing.  Elders and parents were also invited.
The ceremony began at 2:45pm.  Everyone sat or stood along the walls of the gym, leaving a large open space in the middle.  Many people came dressed in traditional Inuit clothing.  The principal & vice principal introduced themselves and welcomed everyone to the assembly.  They each gave a short speech about the creation of Nunavut and its significance in Canadian history.
The Grade 8 class came out and performed a few Inuit songs with the help of an Inuit drum.  Two students took turns playing the Inuit drum.
High school English & Art teacher, Paulette, receiving her certificate.
School administration wanted to recognize the teaching staff for their commitments to Nunavut education by awarding them certificates.  Each teacher was called up to the front to receive their respective certificate.  I handed my camera to a high school student when my name was called.  They took pictures of me receiving and holding my certificate.

The festivities continued with classes forming groups and playing a variety of Inuit games with their teachers.  The games in separate groups lasted 10 minutes.  The principal reconvened everyone for a contest game where lucky students would win a backpack, cup, or water bottle.  The prizes were placed in the centre of the gym.  The prizes I think were donated by the Hamlet Office.  I’m not entirely sure how the game worked because I was taking pictures from the mezzanine, but it worked like a raffle.  Either way, the prizes were claimed by happy students.

Revered Arctic Bay Elder, Qapik Attagutsiak (left) was in attendance with one of her daughters (right).
The celebration concluded with a feast of country food.  Bowls of fresh raw caribou meat and caribou jerky had been prepared on the morning of April 1.  A few high school students divided the country food using paper towels while the students were playing games.  They also assisted in the distribution of the food.  I had some myself.  My stomach can handle raw caribou and caribou jerky in small amounts.  I think it’s going to take several more years before I can eat raw meat in larger portions.

Me after receiving my certificate.
Everyone was dismissed to their classrooms when all the country food was consumed.  The school bell rang several minutes later.  School was done for the day.
My Nunavut certificate is now hanging on a wall in my place.  I can only imagine what Nunavut will look like after another 20 years?  I hope that by the year 2039, all the communities in the territory are connected by roads and all the social problems up here will be addressed & corrected.  Only time will tell.