The 19th Portage Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps has reconvened gathering at the local Armoury on 2nd St NE in Portage la Prairie, and are excited to do so.
Sergeant McKenna Sharpe has been part of the local cadets for three years and is glad to see the group get together again after the pandemic shutdowns of gatherings in public places. Sharpe is 15-years-old and started with the corps when she was 12.
"I enjoy cadets for many reasons and probably the friendships that you make throughout cadets," says Sharpe. "It is like a good bonding experience. As a corps, we do many activities together. We do learn survival training, bushcraft, leadership, drill, marksmanship, physical fitness, Canadian citizenship, and we all work together to be able to become one good corps together."
The program lets you join at 12 years of age.
"Once your 19th birthday hits, it's the hard, last day when you turn 19, you're done," adds Commanding officer Sean Robertshaw.
Sharpe explains the skills she's learning at the corps will last her a lifetime.
"The leadership, the discipline and just the relationships will be a thing I'll be able to keep forever."
Sharpe says she's thrilled to be able to gather again, after having done what they could in an online format.
"I'm glad that we're able to get back into the armouries, and I really hope that more kids hear about the cadet program and come out and join us on Tuesday nights," continues Sharpe. "Joining cadets was one of the best things I decided to do and I strongly encourage other youth in Portage to come out and give it a try. You may think it's not for you, but you'll be surprised how much fun you have and all the new things that you will learn."
She notes she and her brother were also integral to forming a pipe and drum band at the local corps a few years ago, noting she was playing since she was six years old.
"A part of 19 Portage RCACC allows you to also learn the bagpipes, the snare drum, the tenor drum, and the bass drum from our cadets here," adds Sharpe. "So, if you come on down, you can learn an instrument along with all the other skills."
She explains there's also a summer program that cadets enjoy across the country.
"The camps are unique to different activities and things that you're interested in," notes Sharpe. "There's band, survival, drill, and from there, you get to meet all the other cadets from across Canada and do something that you're more interested in. There's also a workshop set throughout the year online that we can do, and sometimes we actually get to be able to go with the British cadets and hang out with them. We also meet cadets from BC and Ottawa, and all over, just on a regular Saturday afternoon."
Commanding officer Sean Robertshaw says they've been back at the Armoury since February when in-person restrictions were first lifted.
He explains how they carried on their programming online during restrictions and are slowly returning to a more normal routine after having been somewhat rusty after the last two years.
"We ended up doing two different online platforms," says Robertshaw. "The last one we were using that's now used for all of the cadets was Microsoft Teams, and then we just set up virtual classrooms and we talked the lessons virtually over the computer. The cadets would attend virtually. We had them do a project at home to keep them interested. It definitely presented its own challenges. And at certain points in time, we were able to do outdoor activities along with virtual training, so we weren't able to meet indoors in-person, but we were able to do outdoors in-person because we had more space for physical distancing."
Robertshaw explains the programming includes citizenship, military history, a little Canadian history, marksmanship, drill, physical fitness, bushcraft and survival, and mapping compass navigation.
"Before COVID, we usually had about 30 kids," adds Robertshaw. "At this point in time, we're back to 17. So, that's not too bad. A lot of people joined up once we came back from COVID. We had a few who were basically waiting. When we came back, we obviously still have COVID-19 regulations, but we're able to meet in person now. We had a few people who joined because of that and then they told their friends. Now we have quite a few more members of the corps."
He notes they gather between 6:30 and 9:00 p.m. at 143 2nd St NE, adding they're only at that location until June 7th when their year ends.
For those who would like to get involved, they can email Robertshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org, to schedule an appointment to fill out an application, and there's no fee. They meet every Tuesday night from September until the beginning of June. Robertshaw says they also have various weekend activities. They have two supported weekend activities a year, as well as six single-day activities on a weekend. Robertshaw says they usually operate at least five or six other non-required events on Saturdays every year.