Story by Jennifer Merrick
REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN — It’s a dawn on a warm June morning when I head into the RCMP Depot for a day of education. I’m learning what it takes to be a Mountie. Mine is a crash course — in more ways than one.
06h30 – Parade Square
“You can breathe, blink, shiver and sweat,” barks Corporal Penny Hermann. “Anything else, you will be paying for it.”
“Push-ups are not part of Drill, they are part of screw-ups.”
Needless to say we do a lot of push-ups.
07h45 – Drill Hall
I doubt our drill sergeants have ever seen a more uncoordinated, directionally challenged group of misfits under their command. We make the oddballs in the Police Academy movies look like an elite force. As much as they yell (and they yell) and as many push-ups we do (and we do a lot), we can’t get anything right. Hand and thumb positions, turns, and even counting proves to be insurmountable challenges. There are 12 of us but as we take turns calling out our numbers, we repeatedly end up at 13.
The drill sergeant is losing his head, and I’m trying desperately not to laugh. I must have smiled though because the drill sergeant zeroes in on me.
“Is something funny?” he bellows.
I croak out a “No, sir.” More push-ups.
Comical, yes, but also stressful — even more so for the cadets whose careers depend on graduating from this phase of the program. A recruit tells me later how desperately she wants to get it right. “When you get even the smallest amount of praise, it means so much,” she says.
“It may seem harsh,” says Sergeant Andre Clement, going on to explain that cadets will have to deal with worse when they start policing. “We are teaching them to have discipline and composure in difficult situations.”
09h05 –Police Defensive Tactics
Once again we’re put through our paces, this time punching and kicking our way through a series of stations. I have to admit, unlike Drill, this class is actually fun, though we realize our efforts are not quite up to par when the instructor shouts, “Do you think this is a day care?”
There are five minutes to change back into our uniforms and run to our next class. Cadets are always running or double-timing it as they call it at the Depot. In fact, they’re not allowed to walk or be on the sidewalk. Everything has to be earned from the stripes on their pants to the black shoes and, finally, the prized Mountie boots.
10h10 – Applied Police Science
At last a chance to sit down, and finally the chance to do something we’re decent at. Our journalist troop shines as we learn the importance of detail in Notebook Training class.
11h15 – Fitness and Lifestyle Unit
Though completely exhausted we change and double-time it for more physical punishment — I mean training — which includes an obstacle course and even more push-ups. Face completely red and arms shaking, I try to keep going, wondering how on earth these cadets do this for six months.
13h30 – Advanced Driving Track
Feeling human again after lunch in the mess hall, we set off to the track. The first exercise has us backing up while weaving around pylons. When it’s my turn, I knock one down.
“That was a small child,” says the instructor dryly. Luckily you can’t do push-ups in a car.
The next exercise is learning how to avoid obstacles at high speed. High on adrenaline, I’m no longer tired as I first accelerate quickly before braking and turning at the last minute. Heart thumping in my chest, I somehow manage to do it, but not without letting out a scream.
14h30 – RCMP Chapel
We’re at the historical chapel not to pray for having survived the driving exercise, but for presentations of troop certificates. We also receive a challenge coin, and Louise Lafrance, chief superintendent, explains that if we were to present this coin to a member of our troop and he/she did not have it on, they would have to buy us a drink.
It’s just one of the many traditions of the RCMP, a force with a rich past that’s intertwined with the history of our country. Founded in 1873, with 150 recruits, it has grown to more than 20,000, providing policing in all the provinces and territories except Ontario and Quebec.
“The force is a symbol of Canada,” says Lafrance. “And that alone is impressive.”
Personally, I’m impressed with the cadets who go through this rigorous program.
We leave thankful that Canada has a national police force we can all be proud of, and also thankful we’ll never have to attend another drill class again.
MORE ABOUT VISITING THE RCMP DEPOT
Attractions: Next to the training depot is the RCMP Heritage Centre Museum, where you can learn more about the history and traditions of the RCMP. There are also tours of the depot and special events, including the Sergeant Major’s Parade and Summer Sunset-Retreat Ceremonies.
Location: 5907 Dewdney Avenue, Regina, SK (see map below)
Admission: $10 for adults; $6 for children; free for kids under five years of age.
More Info: Visit the websites of Tourism Regina and Tourism Saskatchewan for additional details about planning your trip.