Two young Sooke residents have returned from a six-week experience that they’ll never forget.
Ireland Greenhough and Jacob Thomas, both 17-year-olds from Sooke, applied for and were accepted into the Canadian Armed Forces Bold Eagle Program, and the experience was life-altering.
Getting accepted was the first hurdle.
“I applied in April and then had to go to the recruiting office in Victoria where I had in the interview and a fitness test and a medical examination,” explained Greenhough.
“Then I waited. It was late June before I was contacted and told I’d been accepted.
The process was largely the same for Thomas.
“Ireland and I were very lucky to be chosen. There were more than 1,250 applicants for the program and they selected 220.
The Bold Eagle program is an initiative of the Canadian Armed Forces aimed at young people and that combines military training with First Nations cultural awareness. Beyond the initial week of cultural awareness training, the remaining five weeks of the program mirrors what recruits would face as basic training for the Canadian reserves. While the young people from Sooke were both 17-years-of-age, the average age of the participants was in the mid-twenties.
The program is run at Wainwright, Alberta.
“We’d be up at 5 a.m. and do an hour of PT (physical training) before breakfast. We’d do things like an hour-long run to start the day,” recalled Thomas with a smile.
Following PT and breakfast, the typical day would involve courses in topics like weapons, navigation, how to handle tear gas exposure as well as a myriad of other topics.
“We had to go into the tear gas hut and do jumping jacks….things like that, recalled Greenhough.
“It goes a long way in teaching you how to have confidence and how to respond when things are difficult.”
That self-reliance while being a part of a team was at the core of the lessons learned at the Bold Eagle program.
“I came back and people told me I had changed. They say I’m more mature and more confident and, even though I didn’t realize that I was changing, I guess I did,” said Greenhough.
“Life here (in the normal world) can be a little boring. I realized that I’m not even looking at my phone these days. I actually miss being busy all the time.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Thomas who noted that the lessons he learned were related to establishing perspective.
“I learned that if someone makes a mistake, they shouldn’t be ridiculed because, most likely, it’s a mistake that a lot of people might make and are still making,” he observed.
“Back here away from the program, I see people getting made fun of for mistakes. That’s the wrong approach.”
Greenhough smiled at her friend’s observation.
“When they announced in our practice drill before graduation that I had been named as the second top candidate in the program, I was so flustered, I sort of tripped on my rifle coming forward,” she recalled.
“Fortunately, that was just practice. I didn’t trip at the actual ceremony with Her Honour (the Lieutenant Governor, Lois Mitchell).”
The experience in the program has also served to change the two young people’s view of the world in other ways.
“I learned about self-reliance, confidence, and the fact that you get out of life what you’re willing to put in,” said Thomas.
Both Thomas and Greenhough are hoping to return to the Armed Forces Reserve after graduation and Thomas is considering a military career at some point in the future.
Greenhough wants to join the reserves, but is hoping for a future in policing or with the Military Police… but not until she finishes her education.