Warrant Officer 2 Kamal Dhillon, 170 (St. James) RCACS
2010 IACE Israel Group
WO2 Dhillon, in red shirt, centre row fifth from the left
I’ve been in cadets now for the past five and a half years. It has become such an integral part of my life, and has helped to define who I am as a person. The summer of 2010 was my second last summer before I age out. I really had only two options left before me in terms of summer camp – IACE or going away as a staff cadet. It was an exciting, yet difficult decision of which one to pick. On the one hand, I had always planned on applying for IACE my last year – it would have been my final cadet activity, a truly memorable experience that would have summed up all of my years spent in the program. That would have left me with staff this summer, seven weeks of rewarding, and paid work. This original plan was quite sound, but in reality, I was being tugged in the opposite direction. This past year for me had been extremely challenging, it was fast paced and busy – I found myself constantly occupied, with hardly any time for me. I had been dreaming of summer for months now and could hardly fathom going away to work for seven long weeks, especially so soon after school had ended. So, I went with my gut and applied to the IACE program, an experience I had been looking forward to for years. For me, the IACE stands as the ultimate reward for long serving cadets who have dedicated substantial amounts of their time, energy and effort in the cadet program. It was everything that I wanted – travel, socializing, learning, independence and an eye opening, unbelievable experience.
When I learned that I had been selected for the IACE to Israel, my first choice, I was ecstatic. I chose Israel because of all the options, it seemed to me the most foreign. It was the one I knew the least about, but was most anxious to learn about. As a debater, I knew that Israel is a nation that is constantly in the media and under speculation, and I wanted to learn more about its politics, social aspect and history. It was a country that I felt I would never get the chance to visit on my own and that I was most intrigued by.
My trip began with a weekend in Ottawa, where 75 Canadian cadets gathered before heading off to our respective destinations. It was where I met the three other girls who would accompany me to Israel, along with our escort officer. The weekend in Ottawa was busy, also filled with touring, shopping and briefings. I left Ottawa feeling more than ready for my excursion abroad. We embarked on our eleven and a half hour flight to Israel feeling eager, anxious and overwhelmingly excited.
The minute we stepped off the plane, we were hit by the heat. It was extremely hot and humid, a climate that we would learn to adjust to over the next two weeks. We were greeted by Yinon, our coordinator, who was very friendly and greeted us kindly. He is a member of the reserves of the Israeli Air Force, of which we were treated as VIP guests. Over the period of our stay we would become thoroughly acquainted with the Israeli Air Force and Israel’s military system in general. That day we met the delegations from the other countries: the United States, Hong Kong, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. It was also the first time we met our hosting families. I had the pleasure of staying with a retired Canadian couple from Toronto as well as an Israeli family.
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
Over the following two weeks we would have the opportunity to travel all over the country. The balance between the military aspect of the trip and touring was well maintained throughout our stay. We stayed overnight at a number of air force bases, toured the facilities, had presentations, went to museums and met the personnel that worked on the bases. Our group always had with us a military photographer, medic, guards and soldiers from the department of foreign affairs. Despite all of the controversy surrounding Israel and the conflict area that it finds itself in, I never once felt unsafe or scared. We were completely looked after and well taken care of. In terms of touring, we did a number of exciting things and saw the most beautiful, exotic places. We visited the Beit Guvrin caves, Masada, the Dead, Red and Mediterranean seas, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Knesset (parliament), the Holocaust Memorial Museum “Yad va Shem”, the Bahaian gardens of Haifa, the Arbel nature reserve, the Golan heights and winery, the Tel-Aviv markets, Old Jaffa, and the resort city of Eilat, just to name a few. Because of Sabbath, the day of rest, we would have Friday afternoons and Saturdays on our own to tour with our host families.
Laying Candles In The Holy Citadel In The Old City Of Jerusalem
When the trip came to an end, and we had our farewell ceremony, I could only look back and wonder at all that I had been through in such a short period of time. I left Israel with a new appreciation and understanding of the beautiful country, lasting friendships and relationships with people from all over the world, a store of memories and more pictures than I can handle. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I am grateful and so honoured that I was chosen to have been given the opportunity. I would recommend for all cadets to stay with the program, give back to it what they can and apply to the IACE – it is well worth the hard work and preparation and is the biggest and best reward available.
The Bahaian Gardens In Haifa
The Dead Sea
The Jordan River
The Marina In Tel-Aviv
Underwater Observatory in Eilat
Yad va Shem Holocaust Memorial Museum
Sunrise from Masada