Military cadets do battle

Teens at war to win defence force title

Last updated 05:00 11/10/2012

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What motivates a teenager to get up at 6am and have orders barked at them?

The chance to win the defence force cadet corps northern regional title, the winner of which will move onto the nationals in November.

This week 108 of the best junior soldiers from Taupo to Kerikeri put their brawn and brains to the test in a series of gruelling team challenges in Army Bay, Whangaparaoa.

For five days the 84 boys and 24 girls rise at dawn, polish their shoes, march and follow orders until 10pm, with just a brief evening break in between.

Sergeant Major Jason McClintock, 18, from the Mangere Cadet Unit, not only took part but ensured his unit followed suit.

''I try to get younger kids involved and get them off the street.

''It's all a new experience for them. That's why I'm staying here now, it's for them.''

McClintock was ''forced'' into cadets at age 14 by his mum after getting into trouble at school.

It took him a long time to adjust to the rigorous training and discipline, but the pull of the bush, shooting and team bonding soon had him hooked.

''In a way I rebelled, I kept to myself. People I didn't know were telling me what to do... but I found out the bigger purpose of all of that.''
McClintock spends most of his weekend planning training schedules and events for his unit, and is preparing to enlist as an NZ Army officer.

During the week the units will battle it out for points in a range of activities including target shooting, obstacle courses and simulated search and rescue tasks.

Staff Sergeant Chris Minors, from the North Shore Unit, kept a close eye on his team as they marched to command, encouraging them quietly from the sideline.

''I love being a leader, even if sometimes you make a wrong decision,'' the 17-year-old said.

''There's a certain amount of satisfaction when the barracks looks perfect, everyone's standing perfectly and your muddy boots are shiny.''

It pays off for the effort involved in lugging around 40 gallon drums and tyres for 2kms uphill, or navigating their way out of scrub, he said.

And there's little mischief to be had at the barracks.

''There's the occasional attitude issue, but we've all got the same sort of goal, we want to win the competition.''

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- Auckland Now

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