First Year Outdoor Leadership Experience (OLE): Paddling 195km’s along the Rideau
By: 27182 Officer Cadet (IV) Carmen Kiltz
Following Part Two of their Basic Military Officer Qualification (BMOQ) course in St-Jean, RMC’s first years headed back to Kingston to partake in a paddling experience of nearly 200km.
This is the first year in which RMC has conducted such a First Year OLE. A year back, the BMOQ course held in St-Jean was ten weeks in duration. RMC Cadets attended this summer training following their first year of academic studies at the College.
Now, RMC recruits take seven weeks of BMOQ training (“Part 1”) prior to their arrival at the College. They finish with another seven weeks in “Part 2” of their training after their first year of studies- making for a total of fourteen weeks.
Going from a ten-week to a seven-week course in the summer following their first year, Cadets entering their second year at the College now have an extra three weeks. It has been decided by the training wing, given that there is now an extra three weeks available for leadership training, that this time should be taken advantage of. As a result, the first-ever RMC OLE for Cadets who have completed their first year of academic studies has unfolded.
This trip was a 195km paddling journey which began in Ottawa, and went through the lock system of the Rideau all the way to Kingston.
It was designed to give the Cadets non-combat related leadership skills (in contrast to those learned on BMOQ), expose them to a challenging and unique experience, and offer the sense of teamwork and comradeship necessary to get through the journey.
I caught up with OCdt’s Drew Spinney and Andreas Avgoysti, both seven squadron natives, to ask about their experiences on the trip.
“My favourite part of the trip was how we were generally left to lead ourselves through the canal. We always had staff there if something went wrong or needed guidance, but they gave us a lot of independence.”
CK: This was the first year in which the First Year Outdoor Leadership Experience (OLE) was conducted. What kind of training did you partake in to prepare for the paddling expedition?
AA: We didn’t do too much training for the trip. All we had to do was go out for a morning and learn the techniques and tricks for canoeing. These were things such as how to rescue another canoe if they flipped and the different paddle techniques, just the basics. We did another day where we went for a quick 16km trip to put all this into practice. For someone like myself who has never canoed, this was all very useful!
CK: How many kilometres total did you travel as a group?
AA: The total trip distance from Ottawa to Kingston on the Rideau Canal is 202km, however we started just south of Ottawa and the trip ended being about 195km.
CK: Describe a typical day for you and your group on this journey.
AA: We would wake up at around 0600hrs and right away pack away our tents and gear for the day. After having breakfast the IC for the day would give us our orders and then we would depart for the next lock, which would be between 15 km and 34 km away. On average we would be doing around 22 km a day. Our group travelled together with 7 boats in total and we managed to keep paddling together pretty well. We kept music playing in our boat to keep people going. Sometimes we’d stop off and go for a swim in the lakes which was really refreshing when it’s at least 30 degrees everyday! On arrival to the next camp spot we would set up our tents and be on our own time for the night.
CK: What was your favourite aspect of the journey?
AA: My favourite part of the trip was how we were generally left to lead ourselves through the canal. We always had staff there if something went wrong or needed guidance, but they gave us a lot of independence.
CK: What was the greatest challenge you experienced while on the journey?
DS: The greatest challenge was on the longest day when we ended up going approximately 7km farther which made the trip around 35km. When we found out that we had to go the extra distance it was hard to keep the morale high as we didn’t know how long it was going to take to get there.
CK: Did weather ever play a role in altering the journey’s plans?
DS: The weather was not an issue, one morning there was thundershowers which delayed our departure, but if it rained we just kept going and it was no issue as our kit was waterproofed.
CK: What might be something you would tell next year’s first year cadets as they prepare to go on the same voyage? Any advice or insight?
DS: When waterproofing kit, check to make sure it works. Also, limit the kit to essential clothes and sleeping gear as it is carried in the boat. Make sure to bring a rain jacket, sunglasses and sunscreen.