by Peter Moon
MEAFORD – A select group of Junior Canadian Rangers from across the Far North of Ontario has completed a 10-day leadership course at the Canadian Army training centre at Meaford, near Owen Sound.
“The best part of the week was the shooting range and learning things that you can take back to your community,” said Junior Canadian Ranger Damon Iahtail, 17, of the Cree community of Moose Factory. “This program has helped me a lot.”
It was the second year he has attended the course. ”It helped boost my self confidence last year,” he said, “so that I was able to go home and do public speaking and get more involved when I did community events.”
The events he participated in in Moose Factory included community clean-ups and group walks to draw attention to suicide prevention and raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
The Junior Canadian Rangers is an army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the country.
Nineteen Junior Rangers aged 15 to 18 from 14 First Nation communities attended the course at Meaford. Their training prepared them to be able to assist army instructors in July at Camp Loon, a Junior Ranger camp held annually in the bush north of Geraldton. The camp provides advanced training for about 160 Junior Rangers with a stress on safety on the land and water and in their personal lifestyles.
“I’ve had a lot of fun this week but I’ve learned a lot of stuff about leadership that I didn’t learn back home,” said Claudia Albany, 17, from the Oji-Cree community of Kasabonika Lake. “At the beginning they put us in different rooms with other Junior Canadian Rangers we didn’t know. After a while we started talking and making friends, so when we had to do things together we learned that teamwork is the best. “
One of the training tasks involved erecting army modular tents. Junior Rangers took turns being team leaders. They learned how to lead and how to work with each other.
“We taught them what it is to be a leader,” said Captain John Mc Neil, the army officer who commands the 1,000 Junior Rangers in 20 First Nations in Northern Ontario. “We see a lot of kids come out of their shells during the training. It’s not that we’re forcing them to do it. They’re being encouraged by their peers. They have a long training day but they have a lot fun as well.”
“The food’s really good,” Junior Ranger Albany said. “And I liked the marching, too. It was fun. I liked it. I’ve enjoyed myself and I’ve learned a lot about being a leader and being a mentor.”
For most of the Junior Rangers the highlight of the training was a day on a military range firing the army’s C7 assault rifle. They had to follow civilian rules for their shooting – only five rounds in a magazine and no automatic firing. They each fired almost 100 rounds on a 100-metre range at civilian targets and balloons while a soldier provided each Junior Ranger with individual coaching on the principles of marksmanship.
“I learned many things about shooting I didn’t know before,” said Junior Ranger Albany, who has been hunting moose and geese since she was 14. “I’ll be a better shot when I go hunting.”
Another highlight was an evening in Owen Sound where the Junior Rangers, all from small communities, went bowling and visited a shopping mall.
“They’ve had a good time,” Captain McNeil said. “And they’ve learned a lot. I’m certain of that.”
Photos by Sergeant Peter Moon.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)