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Original Part 3 Post: Read Me!
Original Part 4 Post: Read Me!
Blackdown CTC (Part One – Blackdown Christmas)
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.
Blackdown CTC (Part Two – The Blackdown Burglar!)
The Blackdown Burglar was the main conversation topic of the day, next to Blackdown Christmas. Our day’s schedule consisted of a confidence course, also known as the obstacle course, and it would continue with biathlon later in the day (Running and shooting.)
After dragging myself out of bed in the morning, I saw that many of my bunk-mates had money stolen from them. I was one of the lucky people because I wasn’t missing anything. However, I was extremely tired, and I was hardly able to get through the day.
Of course, the horrible sleep during the night effected my attempts to complete the obstacle course. I nearly fell asleep whilst crawling through an obstacle, however I was still able to complete the course. I got to the bench to see the sergeants punishing people who didn’t drink water to rehydrate. When we had the option to go around the course a second time, I took a 15 minute nap.
Later on in the day, we had to do a biathlon course. Biathlon is basically a running and shooting course. We would run a lap, shoot five targets, then run another lap, and shoot another five targets. As I mentioned in part 1 of this post, I have a horrible shot. I missed all ten targets, but I ended up with an average time.
Yet again, it was dinner time. However, we didn’t have a normal dinner, it was ‘German Night’ at the mess hall. I had to eat Bratwurst (Pork and ground spices) and schnitzel (fried meat).
I spoke to one of the sergeants in charge of our group of cabins. We had two sergeants stand in front of our cabin for a large majority of the night, so I was finally able to get some sleep.
It was finally Sunday, our day off, and I was homesick. My parents picked me up to leave for the day. We went out for Lunch, and I returned to camp later in the day. My parents brought me earplugs so I would be able to sleep through the tent’s noise during the rest of the week. When I got back, I did a few chores (laundry, etc), and I watched a movie that was being played at camp later in the night. We watched ‘Let’s be Cops’ which wasn’t that great of a movie. I would rate it 6/10.
I slept well, not having to hear anyone else talking when I had my earplugs in.
The next day began normally. I woke up again, I made my bed, changed into my uniform, ate breakfast and waited in my tent for about an hour. I joined the group as we hiked into the forest. We would be doing a ropes course. The course was made up of three sections, of which we could only choose one. We had to choose if we wanted to cross between hills on a 3, 2 or 1 rope bridge. On the 3 rope course, you would walk on a single rope while holding on to two different ropes. On the two rope course, you would be walking on one rope and holding on to the other. On the single rope course, you would have to hold onto the rope with nothing to stand on.
I have very little upper body strength, so the single rope course didn’t seem like a viable option. Instead, I decided to do the two rope course. I successfully crossed, despite the wind pushing me to the side.
After that we went to the mess hall for lunch. According to some of the people sitting at my table (which at this point, I realised weren’t a trusted source of information [but that’s another story]), there were police in Blackdown, looking for the ‘Blackdown Burglar’. I also learned that the next day, we would be on an overnight camping trip in the woods. This trip was actually going to be very nice. We would be able to choose our tent-mates and I would be able to sleep soundly for once. We spent the rest of the day preparing our camping equipment and packing our things. I went to sleep, ready for the camping trip to come. I was unaware about what was going to happen the next night.
Blackdown CTC (Part Three -Going Home)
It was a Tuesday and it was almost time for the camping trip. I had packed my bags, however they were somewhat heavy. We would be hiking into a forest near the outer edges of Blackdown.
After breakfast in the mess hall, everyone came together to hike through the forest. We ended up hiking for an hour, with our bags. My bag was over 50 pounds in weight, hurting my shoulders horribly.
We spent a while setting up tents, and everything seemed to be going fine. That was, until a fight broke out. One of the most annoying people in my tent decided to provoke a fight with one of my friends.
Only a few moments later, the fight escalated even further, with one of them being thrown into the side of a tent. The fight ended when the sergeants of our group came forward, telling everyone to stop.
After the fight, I was left rather cheerful. The annoying cadet in my tent had a chance of being kicked out of the camp.
We were back at camp, and after another long hike with a heavy bag, I was very tired. Luckily for me, we had the entire night to relax, and the next morning, we left camp, to go to a public pool.
After going to the pool, we had lunch. We returned to the forest to go zip lining. Prior to the trip, I had never zip lined. We went on an hour long hike, before finally finding the zip line.
When we reached the zip line, we had to take many safety precautions. I had to be attached to two cords. One of them would hold my weight, and let me move forward, and one would simply stop me. I went on the zip line many times, and I found the experience to be truly stupendous.
*That isn’t a picture of me. Since we weren’t allowed to bring cameras or cell phones with us, I had to use a picture from Google Images.
However, just like almost everything else that happened to me in Blackdown, something had to go wrong. I was going to be the last person to ride the zip line before we left. The two cords were attached to the zip line, and I jumped down.
I heard a loud screeching noise. I was slowing down for some reason. All of my weight was being put on the emergency break cord! I slowly slid down the rope, with a metal piece of the zip line getting extremely warm. I actually got burned from it.
I was stuck in the middle of the zip line for a while. The man who operated the zip line came along with a large wooden pole. I grabbed onto the wooden pole, and I was pulled down the zip line. I returned to camp afterwards.
The next day, we ended up doing practically nothing. At Blackdown, the temperature is measured by “Heat Stress” levels. After Heat Stress level 5, we aren’t allowed to participate in any activities.
We are also forced to drink absurd amounts of water. As you can see on the sign in the picture above, at heat stress level 5, we have to drink “2+ Litres of water per hour”.
It was the final day before we left to go home. We spent a few hours marching. After that, we got on the bus to go home.
Despite everything that happened, I truly enjoyed my time at Blackdown. However, I was still very happy to be headed home.
Blackdown CTC Part 4 – Basic Drill and Ceremonial
This Summer, I was accepted to a camp in Blackdown, Borden, with the army cadets. As an army cadet, I was able to choose three different cadet camps that I wanted to attend. (Of course, I could only be accepted to one of them, and there was a large possibility that I wouldn’t be accepted to any of them.) The third option on my list was ‘Basic Drill and Ceremonial’. This was the camp I was accepted into.
(To those who don’t know, drill is marching.)
This camp was set to last three weeks, from July 10th to 29th.
On the first day of camp, I had to endure the normal procedure to get into camp, which involved a lot of waiting in lines. After this process, I entered my tent/bunk for the first time. Within a few hours, I realised I was in the worst possible tent, as the group had already managed to get into trouble multiple times.
When the second day began, we were told to clean our tents – for the entirety of the day. About four hours into the day, when our tent was decently cleaned – floor swept multiple times, dusted, beds made to a specific standard – I was moved into a different tent. Albeit this tent was not as clean, I was glad we weren’t getting lectured every hour. The rest of the day was spent moving my things and cleaning the new tent.
The third day arose, along with activities that didn’t involve cleaning. We spent a few hours being taught lessons on how to be a successful leader, followed by lessons on how to march/do drill with rifles.
On the fourth day, I was able to see the weeks schedule. However, I learned that we wouldn’t be doing much until the second week, except for lessons, cleaning, and drill. After this, we were taught a few lessons about team building games, how to lead a team while playing aforementioned games, and why it’s important to play team building games. This was followed by learning more drill.
Days five and six were basically repeats of day four with slightly different lessons.
Finally, it was the seventh day, the first Sunday of the trip, also the first ‘free-day’.
In Blackdown, every Sunday was a day off for cadets partaking in courses, in which we could stay in Blackdown and be with our friends all day or go home for the day with our parents. I stayed in Blackdown for the day, but I was sleeping for a large portion of my free time, due to the fact that I had only slept 5-6 hours a night for the past week.
Luckily the rest of the trip was much better, as our first activity on Monday was going to a pool outside of Blackdown. A bus drove all of the Basic Drill and Ceremonial cadets to a pool about ten minutes away.
Later in the day, all of the cadets (including me) were assessed on our ability to lead a team. We were assigned a specific ‘team building game’ that we had to teach to a group of other cadets.
When I was assessed, I had to get a group to play the human knot. It was simple enough and I completed the task ‘without difficulty.’ (When you are assessed, your ‘mark’ is one of the following labels; incomplete, completed with difficulty, completed without difficulty, or exceeded standards.)
On the eighth day, Tuesday, I was brought to to the confidence course (an obstacle course in Blackdown.) After this, we were taught a few more lessons.
Day nine involved a large amount of lessons, while day ten was mostly spent practising drill/marching.