Note: I have converted our notes into dialogue….easier to paint a picture of Jack’s experience.   

 Jack, send note to correct errors if 
you have time.   I know you are heading to the mountains with your unit and likely willl be very busy.


alan skeoch
august 17m 2023

This is Private Jackson Skeoch, our grandson of whom we are very pleased.  He is now
a private in the Canadian Army.     Assigned to the PPCLI. Marjorie and i only know
part of what that means.  Perhaps you might like to know as well.

Best to start by looking at this picture of Jack.  Look closely.  Note the rather 
nondescript piece of material attached to his cap by velcro.  Nondescript is the right
word.  When Jack arrived back home for his  two week ‘leave’ 
in July, he showed me the badge on which are five letters….RECCE.  Initially 1 was
unimpressed and I am sure  Jack was disappointed.   Now I know better.
This little badge means Jack has qualified for Recon training in the Canadian army.
It means he is now a member of a select subgroup of Canadian soldiers. 

Jack has good reason to be proud of his achievement.  Let me record what I now know.

1) FIVE ELASTIC BANDS ON HIS WRIST.   Strange to see Jack spring five wide elastic bands on his wrist.   I did not even
notice them until Marjorie  explained their meaning.  “His sergeant major told the
RECCE grads to always wear these five elastic band so you can pack up fast
and move out even faster.”  Take only essentials. 


2)  Jack’s sister Molly organized a camping party for Jack shortly before he headed back
to CFB Shiloh in Manitoba.   Marjorie and I were invited and were a little surprised
that jack arrived with an army back pack.  “Everything I need is  in this 
packsack and I am expected to have it with me everywhere I go.”  And he showed me
how it is slung on his back.

3)   “GRANDPA, there is a reason I feel good about this RECCE badge.  It means I have graduated from
a very tough course.”  Some would call this course a TRIAL By ORDEAL.  Here are some of the courses
he took and passed.  The order is random.  

 “One  of the worst, from my point of view, was the water course.
All candidates had to spend an 8 hour night floating full clothed in a deep swamp.  The course was broken into two parts.  First
part was to silently slide into the swamp fully clothed including gear.  Then to cling to a life buoy of some kind for
four hours.  No talking except a whisper perhaps.”  Then Jack and his fellow Privates got a 40 minute break for sleep and 
dry clothes.   Then they had to put on their wet clothes and spend another 4 hours in the water.  I believe this
was a night course but could be wrong.   It most certainly was a trial by Ordeal.  Quit and you are out of 
the course…failed.   He had no intention of failing. Pain he could take without whimpering.


On Jack’s last day we invited him to open two hours with us on our front porch.  We wanted  to know about the
course.  He was reticent to say much about it because no one back home had ever been in the
Canadian Army.   Jack is not a boastfull person.   We knew he had stories to tell and this moment on
our front porch was reserved solely for Jack.  Marjorie kept notes.  I asked a lot of questions.
This is our record of those two hours spent on a July afternoon in 2023.  

4)  “Grandpa, we had to jump from Griffin helicopters holding on to a rope and then rappel our way to the ground
as fast as we could.    Helicopters only hovered for a few minutes…maybe seconds.   We had to be fast and careful with about
100 pounds of gear on our back.  We did this many times in daylight or dusk.  To let go of the rope 
was a sure injury and thereby removal from the course.   Our sergeants explained the difference between
pain and injury.  Pain was to be expected.  Injury was not expected but did happen.  If one of us was
injured then he was sent to hospital and removed from the course.  That was why Basic Training was so
brutally demanding.. I can do 60 or 100 push ups on command now,

5) “We simulated a Night Recon and potential  Assault training by boat.”
“Who is we?”
“My patrol .  We carried our weapons and gear but it was  a recon test.  To fire
a weapon is risky…reveals both our presence and our location which could be fatal.”
Alll  of us we’re in full camouflage gear….dark clothing for night assault.   The big rubber 
assault boat had an outboard engine and the plan was to nose into the landing point
and  immediately roll off the black rubber inflatable craft  For me the landing did not go
“What went wrong?”
“There was a rope looped along water line of the assault boat.  Loops for men in water to grasp.
My arm got caught in the loop.  No time for help as landing had to be fast.”
“And so I reached down my leg for my knife….quickly sliced the roipe and joined the team.
We did this simulation several times where all went well.”

6) “Grandma, have you ever stayed wide awake for 72 hours?”
“No.  That’s three whole days.”
“We did it but staying awake was not easy. Here , smell this…take a good whiff.”
“That is awful..”
“I bought a can of these smelling salts just to ensure I was awake all the time. 
To fall asleep is to risk the life of others.    Must be awake all the time.  Not easy
even with the stink bomb.”

7)  “Ever been in a fist fight grandpa?”
“I avoided fighting whenever I could.  Anybody wanting to fight me was likely 
going to win so I kept clear of conflict.   Most violent thing I did was knock
ball carriers down playing football.   I was good at that.”
“Well, we had to fight.  Had to know how to fight which meant getting in some good
punches right away.  We had 60 second fights with each other.  Timed fist fights.
For real.  Drew blood. “
“I neer heard of that, Jack…news to me.”
“who would want to talk about it?

“You have that punching bag hanging the garage.  Was that the reason?”
“No, I did not know about the fist fight training until we got to Camp Shiloh.”
“How did you do?”
“I ws OK but did not like hitting my friends….even for the 60 second time limit.”
“Was that necessary?”
“Recon stealth could go wrong….better a  fist fight than firing a un.  If the option was available.”
“Violence expected?”

8) “Grandpa, I did not say much about our weapons training .  I know you do not like guns.”
“You remember how Marjorie and I turned my grandfathers rifle in to the OPP for destruction.”
“That’s why I have not said much about our weapons training.   Lots of time spent
on a firing range with different weapons.”
“Any live firing situations?”
“Big part of the training, Grandpa.”

“Also  obstacle course…stealth…on our stomachs with live firing over head.   At least the
sergeants said it was live firing.   Truthful or not we kept our heads dow.  No one died.”

9)  “I would like to say something about the word ‘truth’…something that is very 
important.  Sergents stressed truth.  Even iif the truth does not reflect well on
a soldier.  Such as cheating by falling asleep on the 72 hour test…or doing only
 of 60 assigned push ups …or just plain lying about anything.   LIers are booted
out of Canadian  army training.  No second chance.”
“Surely tate is a little overdone?”
“Nope.  The sergeant major says that any person who will tell lies is a person not
to be trusted in a combat situation.   The lives of the whole team could be
put in jeopardy by someone who lies.  Lyers are sent back…no room for them in the army”
That’s how I learned the smelling salt truck.  My eyes got dosy…sleepy.   Hence the
tin of smelling salts.   Nobody could trust a lier on sentry duty.”
“Everybody tells lies now and then.”
“Not me.”  (Probably overstated but point is clear.

10)  “did you ever see wild animals during stealth training?”
“yes, lots of deer, some moose and a few bears.”
“How close?”
“Very close.
“How close…how many meters away,?”
“One time a deer came right over to almost touchi  me with its nose.
I lay perfidy still…camouflage clothes, green face paint, helmet with shrubbery…deer detected me
with its nose and came over to check.   Same thing happened with kangaroos in Australia although
they never got closer than a few meters.”

11) “How did the stealth training work?”
“We were given a compas reading then expected to report 
what we found.  We must not be detected.’’’which is easier said than done.
Also easier to do at night than in broad daylight.”
“Were you ever detected?”
“Not often.  Funny thing happened on my first stealth assignment.  As soon as I got the 
compass coordinates I took off… found the object which  was a truck licence….then
reported back the licence number to our sergeant who did not believe me at first.  “But you
were not supposed to start the stealth test until I told you to do that,”

Now Jack is back in Camp Shiloh for a few days.   He expects to be sent to the Rockies for
Recon training in a day or so.

alan skeoch

august 18, 2023

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