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RCMP HERITAGE CENTRE AND ACADEMY TOURS

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RCMP Academy tours of the Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan, take place every summer, from Victoria Day (last weekend in May) to Labor Day (first weekend in September).

Visitors learn about RCMP history and training. What you see depends on the time and day that you tour the academy. We saw RCMP cadets training in the Drill Hall.

"Concentrate!" barked the drill master. "Left, right, left, right. Together with the beat!" he ordered, as he walked in front of the troop with a baton under his arm.

Recruits train in RCMP Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Recruits train in RCMP Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Sweat poured off the recruits' foreheads and saturated their shirts. But the drill master continued, "Pick up those thighs! Get those huge ham hocks in the air! Heel under the knee! Toes pointed down! Eyes parallel to the ground!"

Walking tour

The recruits' faces reddened, possibly from the exertion; possibly because a group of visitors was watching every movement, listening to every criticism.

Alanna and Norm, two graduates of the 24-week Basic Recruit Training Program, led our RCMP Depot Division walking tour. "We volunteered to spend six weeks as tour guides, before going on to another 26 weeks of field training at our assigned detachments," said Alanna.

We asked why they weren't in a hurry to complete their training. "Public relations are half our job," explained Alanna, "so this is good experience for us."

Cadet training

It must also be a break from the rigorous training. "The program is 65 percent academic, which includes law, human relations and crisis intervention," explained Norm, vand 35 percent physical, with emphasis on self-defense, foot drill and fitness."

A typical day begins at 5:30 a.m., with first inspection at 6 and a parade at 6:30. Breakfast lasts from 7 to 7:30 and is followed by classes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a half-hour break for lunch.

Boxing class in gym
Boxing class in gym
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"We do everything together as a troop," said Norm. "Troops consist of 32 recruits who can be all male, all female or mixed. We study, eat, sleep and work out as a single entity for six months." It's not surprising, then, that quite a camaraderie develops. "I miss it already," he added.

As we walked through the RCMP Academy grounds, Norm pointed out the dorms, the officers' mess, the academic building, the forensic lab and the firearms building.

Entering the gym, we found one troop taking swimming lessons and another, divided into pairs, each with a coach, for boxing lessons. (Other tours may observe lessons in karate, judo, handcuffing techniques and police holds.)

RCMP chapel

The 45-minute tour ended at the chapel, the oldest building in Regina and the only free-standing, police-owned chapel in the world.

It was originally built in 1883 as a mess hall. In an attempt to keep the recruits in the barracks, the canteen sold beer in pewter mugs for five cents a pint — at a time when it sold for 15 cents in Regina.

In 1895, a fire severely damaged the building. It was rebuilt as a chapel, which is now used every Sunday for services, as well as for weddings, funerals and christenings.

Sunset Retreat ceremony

Although the tour had officially ended, our guides suggested that we stay for the Sunset Retreat. It's a moving ceremony, with the choir singing traditional Canadian songs, and the recruits, in red serge uniforms, marching in the square, before lowering the flag for the night.

Mounties stand in front of Canadian flag.
Mounties stand in front of Canadian flag.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

In the interim, we browsed through the RCMP Heritage Centre, which traces the history of the force from its origins as the North West Mounted Police in 1873 to the present day.

We saw a large buffalo skin painted with pictographs, a combination tomahawk and peace pipe, and an ornate rifle case and tobacco pouch which Chief Sitting Bull gave as gifts to Police Superintendent Walsh.

We learned about the Mad Trapper of Rat River, a cunning fugitive who avoided the Mounties for a long time. On display are his snowshoes, which he wore backwards to throw pursuers off his trail.

Spy equipment

One case contains the handcuffs worn by Louis Riel and the crucifix he carried to the gallows after the North West Rebellion of 1885. Another displays a captured German spy's uniform, chemical-tipped matches for secret writing and a fountain pen microphone.

In 1874, the police were asked to locate the stronghold of the whisky traders, at Fort Whoop-Up, and put an end to the smuggling. Over the years, they have confiscated a substantial amount of equipment used in the illegal drug and alcohol business. Among the items in the Mountie museum are an opium scale and pipe, a homemade two-gallon still and a mason jar of illicit alcohol seized as evidence.

Musical Ride

One display portrays Hollywood's view of the RCMP through the numerous Mountie movies it made. However, the most eye-catching exhibit is, no doubt, Nero. The large black horse knew all the maneuvers in the RCMP Musical Ride and taught them to countless other horses and recruits. After his death, he was mounted by a taxidermist for display.

Horses have always been a part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Over the years, they've been partially replaced by dog sleds, snowmobiles, motorcycles, cars and aircraft. But horses still have a key role to play in public relations for ceremonial escorts, parades and the famed Musical Ride.

Marching band in Sergeant Major's Parade
Marching band in Sergeant Major's Parade
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Forensic exhibits

The RCMP Centennial Museum permanently closed its doors on October 9, 2006. Staff moved the artifacts to the RCMP Heritage Centre, which opened in 2007.

Designed by Arthur Erickson, the Centre is located on the grounds of Depot, next to F Division headquarters. The permanent gallery contains 33,000 artifacts and interactive exhibits. Cracking the Case, for example, shows how RCMP use CSI forensic techniques, like DNA, tire track and shoe wear analysis to solve crimes.

A 125-seat multimedia theater uses music, video projection and 3-D special effects to tell the RCMP story. A holographic Mountie is the host. Red serge covers the seats.

RCMP officer wears dress uniform.
RCMP officer wears
dress uniform.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Sergeant Major's Parade

The time for the Sunset Ceremony arrived, but since it was pouring rain, the event was canceled. Instead, we returned the next day to watch the Sergeant Major's Parade. Sergeant Bob Beaudoin, the music director for the band, was on hand to answer visitors' questions.

"Participation in the band is voluntary," said Beaudoin. "Some of the volunteers had never touched a musical instrument before. Yet listen to them now. I'm real proud of them."

Mountie's hat

"You can tell what stage of training the recruits are at, by their dress," he explained. "Those with brown pants and running shoes are in their first six weeks of training. They then change to black shoes, then to blue pants with a yellow stripe. During the second half of their training, they graduate to riding britches, and finally, in their last week, they wear the Stetson hat."

We noted that the men all have identical short hair cuts. "They've all visited our barber, Black & Decker," said Beaudoin. "What about the moustaches?" we asked. "What we can't keep on top, we put under our noses," he replied. The crowd around us roared with laughter.

We recalled Alanna's comments about public relations. Bob Beaudoin couldn't be a better example.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

RCMP Heritage Centre: www.rcmpheritagecentre.com

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