A birds eye view of Blackdown Cadet Training Centre.
It was February, 2015 when I learned that I would be attending a 2 week ‘general training’ army cadet camp in the Summer. It had taken me a while to fill in my application form, and I was excited.
Then, when the date of the trip came, I became nervous. I delayed the packing of my bags to the last few days.
It was July 21st 2015, the first night of camp, I had a rather horrible experience. I had to wait about an hour for attendance to be called, and to board our buses. Then, I ended up on a 3 hour bus ride. After the bus ride, we had to spend many hours getting lice checks, bag checks, and other ‘boring things’.
The morning of the second day was probably one of the most tedious days of my life. We changed into our army cadet uniforms. Then we were told to make our beds. At first, I was just hoping we would be putting sheets on and taking out the wrinkles. I was very wrong. We spent about 3 hours, being taught how to make our beds.
It took around 45-60 minutes to make our beds. I cannot explain how tedious it was. Dustless blankets, ‘hospital corners’, and more bed making tasks would be repeated daily. On top of that, the rooms had to be dustless, and tidy, with towels hung over the side of the bed vertically, and shoes straightened at the corner of beds.
We ate at the mess hall (‘mess hall’ is the name of a dining area that is intended for soldiers, or in this case, cadets) and we received some very good food.
Lights out was at 10:00 PM, and we had to wake up the next day at 6 AM (So that we had enough time to make our beds and get into our uniform before Breakfast.) If our beds weren’t made, and if our tents weren’t clean, we wouldn’t be able to have our end-of-the-day break.
Lights out came along. I was finally able to get some sleep. Or not. Everyone in my tent was talking. Apparently, I was the only person who sleeps more than 6 hours every night. We had a ten person tent, and every moment of every night, someone was wide awake, holding a conversation. I tried to sleep, and when I finally passed out, I would awake early in the morning to someone talking. On top of all the conversations, our cabin was filled with everyone’s least favourite insect – the mosquito. No matter what I tried, I still awoke the next morning with many bites.
On the third day, things finally began to light up. We finally began with the ‘fun’ part of camp. Our first activity of the day was orienteering. The activity was comprised of a map of the camp, and list of places we needed to go. We went to each area, and raced against other groups to reach all of the areas. We returned to the mess hall for lunch, and I was able to try veal (baby cow meat) for the first time.
Later on in the day, we hiked to the range to use the air rifle. Although I have a rather horrible shot, I enjoyed using it.
Our break was coming soon, I had to prepare for our first inspection. We spent around an hour preparing our tent to make sure it was perfect. In the distance, I heard Star Wars music. It was strange, I had no idea were it was coming from. Then, the Warrant Officer (WO) walked in. (Just to clarify, Warrant officers, are the equivalent of our group leaders. There is a system of ranks in Blackdown that goes in the order of Cadet [me] – OJT – Sergeant – WO.) The WO was playing the Star Wars theme song through speakers whilst he inspected tents.
We were being inspected and we failed almost immediately. We didn’t fail because of how our beds were made, nor did we fail because our tent was dusty. We failed because we laughed at his selection of music. The inspection failing cycle continued when he inspected our tent while playing the song “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”. We did pass the inspection afterwards, and I was able to call home for the first time that week.
I awoke to the sounds of Jingle Bells, as it was Christmas Eve. Of course, it was July 24th, so it was actually Blackdown Christmas Eve. The cadets in band camp were playing Christmas carols as we made our beds. We lined up for yet another meal at the mess hall to begin the day.
Suddenly, one of the sergeant arose from his tent with a replica sword from the Legend of Zelda video games. He was the least intimidating ranked person in camp. I watched him as he continued to take a trash can lid, pretend it was a shield, and chase off birds, claiming that they were spies from the Air Cadets.
The rest of the day was somewhat eventful. We visited the band camp and ended up learning about drums and bagpipes. We returned to the mess hall for lunch. During Lunch, some of my friends and me were sitting at a table together. One of the sergeants told us about Blackdown Santa.
“If you hang your wool socks on your bedpost, Blackdown Santa will visit you and deliver candy.”
“But if your socks are dirty, or if your beds aren’t always made, Blackdown Santa won’t visit.”
Afterwards, we had to practice marching. When that was over, we received our first ‘training bonus’ of $60. We actually got in trouble if we called our training bonus ‘getting paid’.
Blackdown Christmas continued. We were all hanging our so-called ‘sockings’ atop our bed posts. That night was probably the worst sleep of my life. I only slept for about 2 hours. On top of that, instead of being visited by Santa, we were visited by a thief! He was dubbed ‘The Blackdown Burglar.’ Nearly everyone was missing money. More than $1000 was stolen from different cabins. Yet nobody knew who did it.
To be continued…
To read part 2, Click Here!