Wed. Feb 20th, 2019

“I found new heights”

La Ronge teens return from Bold Eagle program

It was an experience like no other for two teenagers from La Ronge who attended the Canadian Armed Forces Bold Eagle program in Wainwright, Alta.

Sixteen-year-olds Damon Mariniuk and Isabella Ruiz left town for the six-week course in July and returned Aug. 18. As a member of the 889 Osprey Cadet Squadron, Ruiz said she attended three-week camps at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in the past, but it wasn’t enough to prepare her for what she encountered at Bold Eagle.

“A lot of the friendship I made there I know are going to last a lifetime, because we were all together for six weeks doing so many things we never thought we could do,” she said. “I had to pull my weight. I had to put in more effort than a lot of people because of my small stature. It pushed me to my limits and I found new heights.”

Ruiz described long days at Wainwright with participants waking up at 5 a.m. and sometimes not going to sleep until midnight. She also noted physical activity was a focus of Bold Eagle, adding there was a lot of running and marching. Being physically fit promotes self-confidence, Ruiz explained, stating staff told her they were being trained like soldier to be deployed overseas.

Another aspects Ruiz enjoyed was the time she spent learning about weaponry as she said all attendees were issued a C7 rifle. There were a lot of safety lessons for handling the weapon with care, she said, and they learned how to properly clean a C7, as well as take it apart and put it back together. Participants were also taken on the range where they had the chance to shoot at still and moving targets.

“It was honestly very rewarding, especially after the marches with your platoon,” Ruiz said. “When we first got there, we all automatically just became brothers and sisters.”

The relationships formed at Bold Eagle was also brought up by Mariniuk as one of the best aspects of the program. He said he met people he will remember in 10 years, adding there was a lot of good company. Mariniuk joined Bold Eagle because he didn’t want to stay in La Ronge for the summer and he was looking for a new experience.

“Everyone had to work as a team,” he said of the program. “When one person messed up, everybody did.”

Bold Eagle is designed for Indigenous youth, and combines culture and teachings with military training.

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