“I got to shoot a gun for the first time. I did pretty good. I got the highest score,” said 16-year-old Mercedes Beauvais-Desroches, who completed a six-week intensive military training program in Valcartier over the summer.
“It was sick! There was a ceremony and everything,” said the teen excitedly.
Beauvais-Desroches decided to participate in the program after a presentation was given at Ratihén:te High School back in March.
“The money was pretty good. But the program also had a lot of trainings that would teach us new skills and could lead to different potential trades in the future,” she said.
“I took a first aid written test. And I also got to train in the gas chamber.”
Beauvais-Desroches was the youngest among her peers. She said that there was also youth from Kahnawake and Akwesasne.
She said that she was able to bond with some of her fellow cadets because they were really open and friendly.
“We had to do a medical exam to check and see if we had arm or leg injuries that would prevent us from doing any of the physical activities.
“We also did a physical exam called the force test. We actually did it during the actual program. I am not even going to lie; we did a lot of push-ups,” Beauvais-Desroches said, laughing.
But the teen took it all in stride, explaining that she found the military written exams fairly easy, and because she has always been very physically active, having done a lot of sports in her life, she found the physical challenges very manageable.
“There were some aspects that were difficult. It’s not just how physically fit you are. It’s also about the mental aspect. We were sleep deprived and exhausted. It was like 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” she said.
“You think that you can’t do something. But you can. You just don’t want to. You’re psyching yourself out. Being there helped me a lot with pushing how far I think that I can go.”
She explained that she had to complete two ruck marches (a low-intensity exercise in which you add weight to your back while walking or hiking). The first was after she did the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) training.
She said that she had to carry a big bag weighing approximately 35 pounds for two kilometres.
“But the captain leads the speed of how fast we’re walking, right? I have short legs. I basically had to jog the whole time,” said the teen.
“Then, the second time, it was at like nine o’clock at night, and all of us were exhausted. It was after our field training. We had no sleep for like 48 hours. And we were told that we had to ruck march all the way from the field training back to our base camp.”
She said that experience was brutal but very rewarding at the same time.
Beauvais-Desroches recommends the program to other youth because of the skill that can be gained.
At the end of the program, a parade ceremony was held in honour of the young cadets and their achievements. Her mother, Kanesatake chief Amy Beauvais, attended.
“I am proud and frightened at the same time. It’s a great experience for our teens. My son (Spencer) wants to go too,” Beauvais.
Marisela Amador, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door