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Down memory lane… – RMC’s First Sandhurst Competition – 1997

 

RMC’s First Sandhurst Competition – 1997

Article by: Brent Mills

RMC’s first year participating in the Sandhurst Competition was in 1997.

Arrangements had been made between West Point and the College to allow participation. Not much was known about the event except that Royal Military Academy Sandhurst sent two teams every year and that each West Point Cadet Company fielded a team.

It was also known that one of the Sandhurst teams won the event quite regularly. The College’s team was selected in January and training started after Reading Week in late February. Leadership was composed of one of the Squadron Commanders, Captain Claude Lavallee of the R22eR, and Sergeant Ken Taylor of the Royal Canadian Regiment. The Team Captain was the Cadet Wing Commander, IV Mason Stalker.

The team wasn’t accorded Varsity status or even Club status; all training for the competition was conducted while members still fulfilled their other cadet responsibilities.

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Because RMC had never before competed in this competition and was unfamiliar with the layout, format and events, West Point provided a detailed handout describing in whole the Competition. From this, Captain Lavallee and Sgt Taylor set to work getting the team ready.

For many of the skills, training was conducted by members of the College’s military staff; the construction of a rope bridge was instructed by the College Chief Warrant Officer, Len Beaulne. NBC drills and map and compass work were taught by members of the drill staff and the physical preparation was supervised by one of the College PERIs, Sergeant Jean Blanchet.

Marksmanship was and still is a major part of the competition, team members, under the tutelage of Sergeant Taylor, fired many rounds at the Base 600 metre range. Of course there were skills that could not be trained for because equipment like radios and the M60 machine gun that were used by the US Army, weren’t available here in Kingston. For those, the team had to wait until arrival at USMA prior to the competition and be introduced and instructed on that kit by the NCOs at the Academy.

The team arrived in West Point and was billeted with West Point cadets. As well as the familiarization on the US Army equipment, more range work was done and more detailed instruction concerning the competition was given, easing the anxious minds of team members.

On competition day, the team was relaxed and felt ready for the challenge ahead of them. Because this was the College’s first attempt, it was generally felt that finishing around 15th place would be respectable, indeed, it was hoped that the Team would finish in around the middle of all the teams.

The cadets competed hard, completing the timed portion of the course very quickly and being the fastest team to get over the famous wall. On the range, they did very well, showcasing weapon handling drills and marksmanship.

All team members were content with their efforts and with each other and for having had the opportunity to take part in such a militarily relevant international competition.

When the results of the Competition were announced, there was an initial shock and surprise that was quickly followed by lots of hooting and hollering.

The team that had never competed in the competition and was, therefore, almost totally unfamiliar with the event, placed 2nd overall, the winners being one of the Sandhurst teams.

Although the Cadet Wing leadership was extremely happy with the placing of the team, I don’t recall any great celebrations on arrival in Kingston. But, I certainly remember the added swagger and heads held-up by team members over the effort that was put forth at West Point in the Spring of 1997.

Who is Brent Mills and what is his connection with RMCC?

Brent served as the Drill Sergeant-Major at RMC from 1993 until 1997 when he was granted a Commission. He returned to the College in 2002 to serve as the Military Wing Operations and Training Officer.

In 2005, he became a faculty member in the Department of Applied Military Science and remained there (with the exception of a tour in Afghanistan) until his retirement, as a Major, in 2013.

During his first tour at the College, he was an Honourary Graduate with the Classes of 1995 and 1997.

Besides his military duties, he refereed IM hockey during both College tours and coached the Historic Hockey team.

Among the many great memories of his time at RMC, his most fond are being invited, as the Guest of Honour, to the Seven Squadron Mess Dinner in 1997 and the victory of the RMC Historic Hockey Team that was composed of members of the RMC Club in 2003.