Dad and I watched Royal Canadian Mounted Police cadets march in Sergeant Major’s Parade in Regina, Sask., last Wednesday. The cadets wearing what we Americans call “Smoky Bear hats” are those about to graduate. Mounties call those hats “Stetsons”, which makes me think of a brand of cowboy hats.

After parade, we talked with a drill instructor. I wish I would have shot footage of that. What he said was very interesting.

Drill instructors are the ones carrying swagger sticks. The one we talked to is the tallest one on video.

I asked him swagger stick’s purpose. He said that one purpose is to make him look intimidating. Another is to bang out cadence when no drummer is available. A third is to show cadets where to stand and straighten out lines.

Then he discussed the purpose of drill and all that yelling we’ve seen DIs do in movies — or in real life if you are in or were in the military.

Drill builds obedience, teamwork and self-confidence. And all that yelling? It teaches cadets to deal with surface distractions while focusing on the main task.

He told a story about a cadet who “popped his jugular” during some field exercises. Fortunately for him, hospital was only blocks away. Emergency surgery left a long, vivid scar on his neck.

He said cadets need to be prepared for “drunks and others” to attack them in areas of perceived weakness. He told that cadet that he must invent a good scar story when people try to irritate/distract him by bringing up that feature. The same goes for any other feature others might pick on.

So he calls attention to those and any other defect, real or perceived, to teach cadets how to handle pressure “in a safe environment.” “Safe” means a place where no one will shoot at them using live ammunition.

I have never understood why DIs treated their charges with such seeming contempt. Now I see that it isn’t contempt. They are teaching skills that may be life-saving in a dangerous occupation.

Who knew I’d learn something valuable at a parade?

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