From the Archives: Recruit Obstacle Course
When Royal Roads was a military college, this time of year would mark the end of Recruit Term for first-year cadets. The culmination of the challenges of six weeks or so of military training alongside the start of college life climaxed with the obstacle course. First mentioned in the 1945 Royal Roads Log on page 26, the course represented a physical, mental and team-building initiation into the college that promoted the recruits to full members of the college. Once accomplished, it meant that cadets could now wear their uniform with badges, have some minor privileges granted, and participate in their first formal mess dinner. The whole college highly anticipated this event, although the recruits dreaded it a bit more than the senior cadets, who relished the opportunity to make their course tougher than the one they had to survive.
The final rope bridge over the lower pond on campus.
The recruits would begin the race in front of the Grant building. In early days, they would wear their uniform on backwards to make the course just that little bit more challenging. They would then run down to the lower field and, as many of the photos and the descriptions in the yearbooks mention, they would begin the run at the bottom of what we now call Charlie's Trail. The cadets would travel with their flight - a group of 15 or so - and would climb a rope web wall and make their way down towards the chilly creek bed. There recruits would go over and under logs, crawl through culverts and climb concrete walls, getting extraordinarily muddy and wet while they helped each other get through each stage successfully. They would go all the way up the trail to the top of the hill to face more tire mazes, water hoses and greased inclines (see the top photo, from 1961). Recruits would end the course by taking a much-appreciated run downhill to the lower pond of the Japanese garden. There they would transverse the water on a rope bridge which may or may not be oiled up or rocked by the seniors in order to create an opportunity for one last swim in icy-cold water.
From finish line of the 1980 obstacle course, cadets project the sheer joy of finishing the course.
The obstacle course was a rite of passage for the cadets, made that much more important by doing it as a group. Many ex-cadets still speak of the intensity of the challenge, and how it marked when they officially became a member of the military - and how they bonded with their classmates having survived it. The obstacle course was a test to know when to assist colleagues in need, and to know when to ask for help, and how they were stronger for recognizing that they work best as a team. This key learning point course remains a strong tradition at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, as you can see in the write up and in the photos from this year's course.
If you would like to know more about the obstacle course, or have your own story to share about the one that was here at RRMC, please contact the RRU Archives office. There are a number of photos on the RRU Archives database as well as in the photo albums that are now digitized, such as the course photos from the 1977-78 photo album (link should scroll link to page 30 in a few seconds).
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