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."
I'm with a group of writers at the RCMP depot in Saskatchewan's capital city, finding out first hand what training is like for cadets in Canada's iconic police force.
"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.
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