Passing Off the Square
By 26549 OCdt (IV) Kai Zhao – Photos by: Erik St-Gelais
Throughout the First Year Orientation Program (FYOP) at Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) in Kingston, Ontario, the First Year lady and gentlemen cadets are always challenged to prove that they deserve a place amongst their senior cadets in the cadet wing. It was no different for this week as cadets were faced with a ceremonial test traditionally known as “Passing Off the Square” during their Saturday night, on September 13, 2014.
Since their arrival through the Arch, the first years were constantly drilled and questioned about College knowledge by their FYOP staff. Information such as the names of the Old Eighteen (the first class to have ever entered RMC), the construction dates of buildings on campus, and even the names of important personnel such as key barmen in the cadet wing are all fair game. This process not only forces the cadets to learn about the history of the college, but also helps them to develop a sense of pride in the institution to which they will call home for the next four years.
The ceremony itself is a very tightly choreographed routine that when deviated from in the slightest, means the first years must run back to their starting positions and try again. The young Officer Cadets are matched in pairs for ceremony. They begin by marching onto the parade square and must perform a very precise drill routine including turns and salutes on the march under the scrutiny of the Top 5 (Barmen, cadet leaders of the college). The Top 5 meanwhile were spaced a fair distance apart, standing rigidly at attention on the parade square in their scarlet uniform completed with a snow-white spiked pith helmet. This drill routine ended with the First Year pair coming to a halt in front of a member of the Top 5. Who then asked each of the First Years individually a question about College knowledge. Between the years or names that were shouted out as answers, it was not uncommon to hear someone singing ‘O Canada or God Save the Queen at the top of their lungs. If the pair was not in step, it’s a fail. If they were not synchronized in their drill movements, it’s a fail. If their arms didn’t swing to a full parallel to the ground, or if their strides faltered even a small fraction, it’s also a fail. When they were answering the Top 5, aside from giving the wrong answers, even the slightest hesitations were also considered failures. It has been said that the average cadet pairs take about 3 to 5 tries before they successfully Pass Off the Square.
What a couple of the first years had to say:
“It feels good, there’s definitely a lot of hours of preparation and a lot of practising so it feels good knowing that it has passed and a weight has finally been taken off our shoulders. I feel like I know the whole school a lot better. While studying for this test, you really do learn a lot of things about the school and it’s neat getting to look around the campus and saying “oh that was built in 1820 and that was built then” It’s an amazing feeling and you just feel like you know everything better. It’s nice to have a light at the end of the tunnel because FYOP is challenging and just knowing that we just need to push for that last little bit to reach the Obstacle Course, it feels really good and gives me motivation to keep going.”
NCdt (I) 27388 Gavin Omand
« C’est un poids qui s’enlève de nos épaules. On se rapproche de notre but, la course à obstacles du 26 septembre. Je sens que connaît plus le campus. On appartient un peu plus au reste de l’escadre et on ressemble un peu plus au reste des autres étudiants. On n’a plus l’air trop perdu. On a les mêmes connaissances et on appartient à un groupe particulier. C’est merveilleux. Ca va finir. On travaille fort. C’est demandant, exigeant, mais on donne tout ce qu’on a et on va réussir la course à obstacles et on va faire parti de notre escadron pour de vrai. »
Élof (I) 27370 Annie Mercier