By Captain Amber Lawson, Regional Cadet Support Unit (Northwest)
Photos by Captain Marco Da Silva-Martins
It’s the final round of the junior match of the National Cadet Marksmanship Championship and the crowd is holding its breath. Everybody is watching two competitors: first-year Cadet Beatrice Khunlee, representing 22 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Undaunted, and Cadet Malcolm Bell from 1535 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. The relay is finished. Who will take the gold medal home? The crowd is silent, everyone is waiting for the final results, and then Cadet Khunlee dropped to the floor as she realized that she had won the match. The 43rd edition of the National Cadet Marksmanship Championship was everything a national event of this calibre needs to be: challenging, competitive, fun and filled with achievement.
On May 7, 2017, 124 cadets from across Canada travelled to Gimli, Manitoba to compete in this national event, representing their Cadet Corps and Squadrons during four intense days of competition. During the championship, cadets are divided in two categories — junior and open — and they all use the standard Daisy 853C air rifle, either in a prone or a standing position.
“The level of competition seems to get higher each year and this year was no exception,” says Captain Adam Neish, chief of competition for this year’s event. “In the unit team prone event, the top two teams were separated by one-tenth of a point with one relay. In the open final event, we had a three-way tie for first place.”
In order to advance to the national championship, cadets compete at three different levels starting at their Corps or Squadron, followed by a zone competition, and then provincially. The provincial results are then compiled and national selections are based on five relays: two standing, three prone and two time-limited regardless of their elements. Only the top sea, army, and air cadets get to move on to the national level.
To attend the national championship, a cadet has to be much more than just a good marksmanship competitor. It takes a dedicated individual who can focus, challenge him or herself, and be a good team player. Being there to support and help your team makes all the difference. During a team match, there are five cadets on the range at any given time and they complete several relays over four days. That takes focus and teamwork.
“The national marksmanship competition was so much fun. Our team’s approach was that we’ve already made it to nationals and you can’t really go higher than that. So we made sure to take time to bond with other teams, make new friends and enjoy ourselves,” says Corporal Erin Barnes from 2562 Queen Elizabeth Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Newfoundland and Labrador. “If other teams needed help, we’d help them out. If they needed a screwdriver, we’d let them borrow ours. Last year we were close to winning the Esprit de Corps Award, so I was really excited that we won it this year. For me, I had a few personal bests and ended up third in the country in the junior category. It’s an amazing experience.”
While in the Gimli area, the heart of the Icelandic community, cadets had the opportunity to take part in a variety of cultural activities where they were able to explore the historic town on the shore of Lake Winnipeg, and visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. The museum made an impact on the cadets from 3019 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
“The cadets did not realize all of the tribulations the people of my generation faced in the Arctic,” says their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Dorothy Tootoo. “The museum allowed cadets to better appreciate their history.”
Marksmanship is an Olympic sport and is a very popular activity offered through the Cadet Program and every cadet is able to try it at his or her Corps or Squadron. Those who have an interest in competitive marksmanship can focus and train under the supervision of qualified coaches and instructors, and some have even gone on to compete in the Olympics. Not only does this exciting sport offer a challenge to cadets, it also builds self-discipline and self-esteem while promoting safety and good sportsmanship. Indeed, there are many ways to successfully hit your target.