CAMP LOON – Camp Loon, the annual advanced training camp for Junior Canadian Rangers, is up and running and the Junior Rangers at it are having fun while they learn a range of skills and techniques, according to the camp commandant.
“It’s a good camp,” said Lieutenant Jason Dech, the Canadian Army officer in charge of Camp Loon, which is held in the bush 50 kilometers north of Geraldton.
The Junior Canadian Rangers is an army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North. There are more than 1,000 Junior Rangers in 27 First Nations in Northern Ontario.
“It’s nice to see the Junior Canadian Ranger s (JCRs) are a younger group this year,” Lieutenant Dech said. “We’ve focused on the 12- and 13-year-olds this year and you can see they are benefitting from the camp.
“I’ve seen behavioural changes over the nine years I’ve been coming to Camp Loon. They are a lot more mannered. They’re saying please and thank you. They are not afraid to ask us for things. They are engaging with us more. When they have a question they come and ask.
“I believe the camp helps to get them out of their shells. The staff try to engage with them and it’s working. It’s nice to see that the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who are working at the camp are adapting to our relaxed environment and are participating in activities with the youth.”
The staff includes Canadian Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, and full and part-time members of the military.
Among the camp’s many programs are a range of activities that are not normally available in the JCRs small home communities. They include specialized instruction in shooting, boating, driving all-terrain vehicles, mountain biking, traditional arts and crafts, and emergency first aid. The camp emphasizes safety on the land and water and in personal lifestyles.
A total of 141 JCRs attended Camp Loon last year. This year’s camp is expected to double that figure.
An important part of the camp’s staff are 19 older JCRs who act as assistant instructors. They received a week of specialized instruction before the camp began.
“We teach them the principles of leadership,” Lieutenant Dech said. “We teach them how to organize their timings and how to structure their day. We give them small party taskings, allowing them to lead a team and accomplish a mission. It could be building a fence, setting up a tent, building a swimming area.
“They are working well. They are teaching the younger JCRs and learning from what they are doing themselves.”
Jolanda McKay, a 13-year-old JCR from Kasabonika Lake First Nation is typical of the younger JCRs at Camp Loon. “It’s my first time here,” she said. “I’m having fun.”
In the first few days at camp, she has fired a shotgun for the first time, learned how to deal with an overturned canoe, enjoyed fishing, and thinks the camp food, prepared by military cooks, is good. She also likes the free ice cream in the hot weather.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)