They learned how to march. They learned how to make their beds. They learned the ins and outs of law enforcement. And they learned how to work together as a cohesive unit.
All in seven days.
A total of 44 high school students from the Okanagan and two from Creston and Smithers gathered in Vernon to be historic Troop 20 of the 20th annual Jean Minguy Memorial RCMP Youth Academy at the Vernon Army Camp. The students stayed in the barracks and were given daily drills and instruction, led by Troop Master Cpl. Paul Bentham, who greeted the students at Armoury Park with quick lessons in the art of doing push-ups.
“They’re going to develop skills they never knew they could develop,” said Const. Dan Cocks, RCMP school resource officer for the City of Vernon, who helped organize the camp. “They’ll push their limits to the point where they’re unaware they can meet those challenges in their lives. Every day (at the academy) is full, right up until 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”
During the camp, the students took part in police scenarios and watched a simulated traffic accident with members of the Vernon Fire Rescue Service helping remove an injured woman from her crumpled vehicle. The purpose of the camp is to simulate life at RCMP depot for would-be police officers in Regina.
The camp is named in memory of popular Vernon RCMP officer Jean Minguy, who was an integral part of the academy in its early years. Minguy drowned on-duty in Okanagan Lake in 2005, and the academy was named after him in 2006.
“He’s sorely missed to this day,” said Cocks of Minguy. “How do you fill those boots?”
After six long days, the cadets marched from the army camp to Hangar G20, home of the B.C. Dragoons, where parents and friends gathered to watch the graduation ceremony.
The camp is wholly supported by the Vernon School District, Department of National Defence, which provides the army camp as an academy base, the Schubert Centre, which provided the meals daily for the troop and by other sponsors.
For Cocks, it was his final academy as school resource officer for the City of Vernon, but he sees the academy carrying on.
“I do see it going for another 20 years, which pleases me greatly,” he said. “I’m leaving on a high note, which is great.”
Asked how he’d rate the week-long experience, academy participant Ethan Laresser of Rutland smiled and said, “12 out of 10 for sure.”