Camp Loon stresses ATV safety for Junior Canadian Rangers

Junior Canadian Ranger Chad Bottle takes last minute instructions from Master Corporal Sherrie Kakekespan and Sergeant Kevin Meikle before beginning a challenging cross country ATV ride. Photo: Sergeant Peter Moon.
Junior Canadian Ranger Chad Bottle takes last minute instructions from Master Corporal Sherrie Kakekespan and Sergeant Kevin Meikle before beginning a challenging cross country ATV ride. Photo: Sergeant Peter Moon.

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By Sergeant Peter Moon

Learning to drive an all-terrain vehicle safely is one of the courses at Camp Loon, one of the most important and popular training sites at an advanced training camp for Junior Canadian Rangers.

Held in the bush north of Geraldton, the camp provides eight days of training for the Junior Rangers, who are members of the Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities in the North.

ATV training for the Junior Rangers is a safety requirement to help avoid unnecessary injuries and even death, as there is no formal safety training in the communities, said Captain John McNeil, officer commanding more than 1 000 Junior Rangers in 23 First Nations across the Far North of Ontario and the camp commandant.

“The benefits of an ATV should not outweigh the safety of the individual. Having Junior Rangers at this camp gives us an opportunity to instill in them safe riding skills for when they go back home.”

“I just got on an ATV at home and rode it when I was young,” said Master Corporal Sherrie Kakekaspan, a Canadian Ranger from Fort Severn First Nation, and one of the ATV instructors. “Then I took an ATV course at [Canadian Forces Base] Borden and I learned all the things I did wrong. There’s no training in how to ride an ATV at home and no one wears safety equipment. Accidents happen in Severn and lots of other communities.”

On course, Junior Rangers learned how to check the machines for mechanical and other defects before riding as well as learning to wear gloves, long sleeves, long trousers, shoes, eye protection, and, most importantly, a helmet. The highlight of their day was a challenging cross-country ride to negotiate a number of obstacles in challenging conditions.

Chad Bottle, a 14-year-old Junior Ranger from Lac Seul First Nation, said he was amazed by how much he had to learn about safety before he was allowed to get on an ATV. “It was my first time riding one,” he said. “It was kind of scary. But then it was cool because I was able to use what I had learned and I had lots of fun on the ride.”

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