Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gold Star Expedition - Part 1

Four senior cadets from 3045 Army Cadet Corps were selected to attend the annual Gold Star Expedition in Winnipeg, in late September.  (Gold Star means Year 4 cadets).  I would be their escorting officer.  This would be my first time, as well as theirs, attending the expedition.  I was told that it would be similar to the Silver Star Expedition held in May, but more rigorous.  Prior to departure, I prepared lesson plans for the supply teacher.  I didn’t want boredom to reign in my classroom while I was away.
The four cadets and I flew out on the morning of Thursday, September 21.  They were dressed in civilian clothing and sporting the red & black 3045 hoodies.  I was wearing my digital combat fatigues.  Unfortunately, there weren’t enough cadets from the north to warrant a charter, so we were taking the scenic route to Winnipeg.  (Cadets from Naujaat & Rankin Inlet were also participating).  To get to Winnipeg, we would fly down to Ottawa through Iqaluit, stay the night, and then fly to Winnipeg through Toronto, early the next morning.  On the bright side, I would finally get to see the newly opened Iqaluit Airport terminal!
New Iqaluit Airport Terminal. (September 21, 2017)
We landed in Iqaluit at around noon.  The plane taxied to the big & shiny red terminal and came to a halt.  The new terminal is eight times larger than the old “yellow submarine” terminal.  We disembarked from and walked across the tarmac towards the door marked Gate 4.  I had my camera at the ready.  I immediately noticed the abundance of open space, and large works of art on the walls.  We turned right, then left, and emerged in the main hallway.  The 15 new check in counters were to our left and the Arrivals Hall was to our right.  We proceeded to the Arrivals Hall, passing the gift store, security area, and more works of art.

Iqaluit Airport - Main Hall
Gift Shop.
The Arrivals Hall is a large circular room, complete with benches, a cafĂ©, and four large murals.  One of the murals is the revered Enchanted Owl, painted by the late artist Kenojuak Ashevak in 1960.  Beyond the Arrivals Hall is the Baggage area where passengers can pick up their luggage from two carousels.  I was very impressed by this new building. 
That's a lot of Amazon packages.
I think Kenn Borek Air needs a
larger hangar.
We stayed in the new terminal for about an hour before catching our flight down to Ottawa.  A former cadet, now living in Iqaluit, came to the terminal unannounced to see his old friends.  I briefly spoke with a former student I taught at Inuksuk High School in 2012.  She now works at the airport gift store.  Our flight was slightly delayed because the ground crew had to unload a lot of Amazon packages off the plane.  (Iqaluit residents still qualify for free shipping from Amazon).
Downtown Ottawa.
The plane landed in Ottawa at 5pm.  There wasn’t any snow on the ground and the temperature was hot compared to the north.  The cadets & I exited the terminal and got a ride to the hotel on a shuttle.  The hotel gave us three rooms.  We got a good night’s rest.

My first fidget spinner!
We were back at the airport the next morning.  We were checked in & through security by 6:45am.  The cadets ordered breakfast at Tim Hortons.  While waiting for the cadets, a random traveller walked by me and said, “Thank you for serving.”  “You’re welcome Ma’am,” I replied.  (I was wearing my combat fatigues).  Before getting on the plane to Toronto, I bought my first fidget spinner!  The fidget spinner craze is still going strong in Arctic Bay, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon.
The flight to Toronto was uneventful.  I followed the cadets off the plane, through the jet bridge, and into the Toronto terminal.  I took maybe six steps beyond the gate doors when another random traveller said to me, “Thank you for serving in uniform.”  “You’re welcome, Sir,” I answered.  We found our gate for the Winnipeg flight and waited for about an hour.  I spent the first half of the flight speaking with a former teacher sitting next to me.  She wanted to know about the Canadian cadet program and from where the cadets & I were coming from.  She was surprised to hear that we were travelling from so far away.  (Wearing your military uniform in public attracts may questions and comments).
Lunch at the 17 Wing Mess Hall.
A captain met us at the Winnipeg Airport and drove us to 17 Wing.  It is here where the Regional Cadet Support Unit (Northwest) office is located.  The captain took us to the mess hall for a free lunch.  The cadets from 3055 Naujaat & 3019 Rankin Inlet arrived several hours later.  There were many familiar faces.  Joyful greetings were exchanged between the cadets & officers.  The Commanding Officers of these two corps were also coming along for the trip.

Boxed lunch.
The cadets were formed up and instructed to place their personal belongings in a van.  The cadets were then taken to a nearby CANEX to shop.  The Greyhound bus was running a little late so shopping at the store would keep the cadets distracted.  The captains running the expedition drove out to the staging area in a convoy of vans pulling trailers.  One trailer was loaded with canoes, another was full of cadet & camping equipment.  A short downpour forced us to stay inside the CANEX for several extra minutes.  We moved over to the recreational facility and ate boxed lunches.  The Greyhound bus arrived shortly thereafter.            
On the way to Whiteshell.
The bus transported us to Whiteshell Provincial Park, 130km east of Winnipeg.  It was night time when we arrived at our reserved camp site.  Cadets from a Manitoba cadet corps were there to greet us.  Everyone disembarked and retrieved their personal belongings.  The cadets were divided into groups and instructed where to set up their tents.  The washrooms were marked with glow sticks.  I was lucky enough to be given my own tent for the weekend.  Sleeping bags & air mattresses were given out.  By the time the camp was set up, everyone was tired & sleepy.  Lights out was 11pm.
Everyone was excited about the next day: Saturday.
My tent for the weekend.
To Be Continued . . .

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