CAMP LOON – Learning how to drive an all-terrain vehicle safely is an important part of the training Junior Canadian Rangers receive at Camp Loon, the Junior Ranger advanced training camp held annually in the bush north of Geraldton.
“They need this training because they need to be safe when they are driving an ATV in their home communities,” said Corporal Angela Tait, a Canadian Ranger from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation and an instructor at the camp’s ATV training site. “They need to know about the proper clothing and gear they need when they ride an ATV and how to drive one safely. That’s what we teach them here.
“We have too many ATV accidents and injuries, even deaths, in our communities, where there is no training in how to drive an ATV.”
The Junior Rangers are a Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North. In Northern Ontario, there are more than 1,000 Junior Rangers in 27 First Nations.
“We teach them about ATV safety, starting with the equipment required to safely operate an ATV,” said Warrant Officer Sheldon DeWolfe, a Canadian Army instructor. The Junior Rangers learn how to check their machines for mechanical and other defects before they ride them. They learn to wear gloves, long sleeves, long trousers, shoes, eye protection, and, most importantly, a helmet.
“We teach them about braking, turning, going up hills, down hills, and on high-angle curves,” Warrant Officer DeWolfe said. “With that, we feel we’re giving them the proper techniques to take back to their communities to teach to their siblings.”
“The proper safety clothing is not available in most of our communities,” said Corporal Tait. “You have to order it and it is expensive. We have too many accidents. I learned to ride an ATV when I was a Junior Ranger at Camp Loon. This is a good program for the kids.”
The poor condition of many ATVs in the remote communities is another contributing factor to accidents, said Warrant Officer DeWolfe. “Many are older machines, many have been damaged, and rather than buy a helmet or goggles they use their funds to bring in parts and keep their machines running.”
The highlight of the ATV training for the Junior Rangers is a challenging off-road, cross country ride that takes more than an hour to complete.
“It was exciting,” said Junior Ranger Jeremiah Cutfeet of Kitchenuhmaykoosib, “This is my first time riding an ATV. I got a small bump on my arm when I hit a tree, but I’m wearing long sleeves and it meant the bump wasn’t too bad. I learned a lot today.”
The training is supported by Polaris Inc., which provides ATVs in different sizes for the young riders. “The opportunity to use their equipment is a great opportunity for the kids,” said Warrant Officer DeWolfe “The Junior Rangers are not allowed to drive military ATVs. But Polaris provides us with proper-sized machines for 12- to 16-year olds. The company has supported our training at Camp Loon for years and without their help, we wouldn’t be able to offer this safety training to the Junior Rangers.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)