Rising to the challenge; Pelham cadet earns his jump wings

Isaac Waskawich exits the training tower during the para course. Photo supplied

While the memories of summer just past are starting to fade for students making their way back to school, for Centennial Secondary School student Isaac Waskawich this past summer was one that he will always remember.

Waskawich is a cadet with the 613 Lincoln and Welland Regiment RCACC which is based in Pelham. He is the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) for the unit, an already great accomplishment, but, this summer he accomplished something really memorable.

Cadets in the different branches of service earn qualifications during summer training related to their field. Air cadets learn about flight, Navy cadets learn about sailing, and Army cadets learn fieldcraft and, if they qualify, they can take the para course (also called jump course).

“The para course offers a completely unique opportunity for cadets; they get to train alongside Regular Force soldiers working towards exactly the same qualification — their ‘jump wings.,’” an article from esprit de corps Canadian Military Magazine says. “In fact, except for a slightly different uniform, the cadets in the program are indiscernible from their Regular Force classmates.”

“Like many advanced cadet courses, the para course is a challenge to get into and challenging to keep up with,” the article says.

The para course is something that elite forces take to become paratroopers, elite troops that can be quickly deployed and inserted into several different operational scenarios in war and peace.

The physical fitness demands for the course are quite high, screening many people out who have applied for the course.

RSM Waskawich was one of the 50 cadets from across Canada who completed the para course this summer, earning his jump wings.

“This meant more than words have to offer,” Waskawich said. “As a younger cadet I was told this was the hardest mental and physical course the cadet program had to offer (and they were right) but I didn’t look at it as a goal, but like something out of grasp.”

“I convinced myself that it would be unachievable from the start,” he said. “I’m not much of a runner but as of last year, I found myself running with one of my officers who already had his wings, 2Lt. Dyson.”

“He started a weekly running night where we trained to run the mile (1.6 km) in 7½ minutes (course standard),” he said. “After a couple of weeks, he got me to run in less than the maximum time which seemed to spark something in my brain and convinced myself that I could do it. I started training weekly and by the end of the course, I was thrilled that I had been one of 50 in Canada who made it.”

“On wings parade at the end of the course, I had strengthened something that I didn’t even know was weak, my confidence,” he said.

His commanding officer speaks highly of his accomplishment.

Isaac Waskawich on wings parade where he was presented with his jump wings. Photo supplied

“I have watched MWO (Master Warrant Officer) Waskawich grow up from the day he walked into 613 Army Cadets at the age of 12,” Capt. Leo Giovenazzo said. “Waskawich has put numerous hours in practicing his chin-ups developing his running skills and maturing into the responsible young man he is today. Over the last year, he has trained hard and long to qualify for the jump course.”

“The staff and cadets of 613 army cadets are very proud of his accomplishment,” he said.

Waskawich speaks about the importance of the need for youth to challenge themselves.

“I believe that is is very important for young people to do this sort of stuff because aside from the overall sense of accomplishment, people really become in tune with themselves and their faults, on the hard courses is where you find your weaknesses and learn to overcome them, that’s what makes them hard,” he said. “When you get off the couch and out of your comfort zone, that is where you learn and grow as a person and as an adult.”

Upon graduation from Centennial, Wakawich is hoping to join the Canadian Forces and become an Electrical Distribution Technician supporting operational units at home and abroad.