For an Estevan youth, the cadet program in Vernon is one that presents an outlet for his desire to explore the outdoors.
For six weeks, beginning in July, the army compound in Vernon, B.C. hosts about 750 young cadets who go through daily exercises and training. At this year's Vernon Army Cadet Summer Training Centre, Estevan's Radley Kolb is working his way through his third program, which lasts six weeks. He has previously been to the training centre for two- and three-week courses.
"This year I'm taking the six-week expedition course, so I get standard first-aid," said Radley. "I get lessons on how to mountain bike properly, how to pack a kit for hiking, and I get to go whitewater rafting, rock climbing, abseiling."
The 14-year-old has been part of the 2901 Princess Patricia's Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Estevan for four years. Radley spoke to The Mercury over the phone from the camp in Vernon last week. He had just returned from a two-day canoeing trip and was about to begin a 15-day expedition.
"They'll be hiking, biking and paddling for 15 days," said Wayne Emde, the training centre's public affairs officer.
Radley is in Echo 21 platoon with about 30 other cadets for the expedition. His group will be heading from campsite to campsite each day, propping up three-man tents upon arrival at each destination.
"You hike, you mountain bike and you canoe to get from destination to destination daily," said Radley. "When you get to the destination, you set up your tent, cook your meal, and you usually just go to bed, wake up, take your tent down and you keep moving."
The day-long treks are right up Radley's alley as he said he loves the outdoors.
"It's pretty physically demanding. If you're not fit, it will be a pretty tough course to take. I like to challenge myself a lot," he added. "I like pushing my limits. I like the training because it's fun. It gives you an adrenaline rush."
In a couple of years he wants to try out for a parachuting course where he will jump out of airplanes, though he said he hasn't done anything like it before.
"I think it would be pretty fun, but that's one of the really tough courses to get into because it's advanced."
Emde noted, "It's a very difficult course for the cadets to qualify for."
He said there are camps in the spring in Vernon, the Prairies and Ontario, and only four cadets from each region get selected.
"It's really competitive, and if they don't meet a certain standard, they don't get picked," said Emde. "The fitness is really high criteria for that particular course. It's an elite course, and it allows the cadets to have the jump wings on their uniforms, which is a real status symbol for the cadets."
"With that course, if you join the regular forces you get the wings as soon as you join," added Radley.
He said he would have to train specifically for the course if he hoped to qualify. The minimum requirements are 40-50 push-ups, seven chin-ups, running a mile mostly uphill in about seven minutes, and about 50 sit-ups. All of the exercises are timed, and cadets have to meet those time standards in order to qualify.
Radley added that what they do at the training centre is quite different from what they do during his local cadet training.
"We do a lot of team building activities, because that's what most of our six-week course is mostly trained over on, team-building exercises. With the six-week course we do more expeditions outside. We go on a 15-day, where at the home corps you go on, like, a three-day expedition. With the home corps you do a lot of drills."
The cadets get paid about $60 each week, and that gives them some spending money for their days off when they can head into Vernon for their leisure time.
For now, Radley said he's looking forward to taking part in further expeditions, like the Rocky Mountain expedition in the fall.
Emde noted cadets can also qualify for the national expeditions, like the one where he took cadets to New Zealand a couple of years ago for 10 days.
"It's a great experience for the kids to go out and see another part of the world," he said. "Those expeditions are for cadets who are the senior cadets in their home corps, so they're really switched on kids."
It's something for Radley to keep in mind, as he joined the cadets because of the experience he receives. He's planning on using all of his training to get a job in the Armed Forces.