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The Fall Exercise - A Study in Resilience

The Robert Land Academy Fall Exercise is one of the most important events held at the Academy each year. So important, in fact, we invite members of the Royal Military College (RMC), and the New Mexico National Guard (NMNG) as well as several military academies in the United States to join us and take part in this exercise.

The Fall Exercise is a three-day hike along the Niagara Escarpment and to Queenston Heights in Niagara-on-the-Lake – a stroll of just under 70km.

The boys do this hike while carrying with them all of the provisions they will need for each day and, on the third day, while sharing the work of pulling the cannon used in ceremonies at the end of the exercise.

It’s a tough exercise. So tough, in fact, that some of the military personnel who have completed the hike admitted it was tougher than they expected and that they weren’t as prepared as they thought they were.  

Training, being prepared, completing something you set out to do even if, or especially if, it is harder than you expected – all reasons why  Robert Land Academy undertakes one of our most important school events right before Thanksgiving, just five weeks into the school year.

The three days on the trails teach everyone who completes the exercise (students and adults alike) much more than any classroom talk could ever hope to.

So we take every single one of the students out for a 70km walk and give them the opportunity to learn about themselves and the benefits of perseverance; understand what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves; and grow as students and human beings. As well, we teach them about setting a goal and creating a plan in order to achieve this goal.

After the three days we have a group of boys who have completed a very tough exercise and overcome some hurdles along the way. The know they can accomplish The Fall Exercise and it gives them the confidence to know they can accomplish almost anything life throws at them; the confidence in their ability to do the little things too, like a tough math exam or earn a university acceptance; and to know who they are and the strength they have.

Accomplishing the three-day hike together, all the while carrying their provisions, requires the kids to work together to finish the hike. When they are done they have come to rely on each other, inspire and push each other, and help and support each other. It is truly inspiring to see one boy carrying two backpacks to lighten the load of a fellow student or hear a section cheering on one of their own who is struggling.

In all, this is a case study of resilience. Coping with a difficult situation and learning how to persevere no matter what occurs.  

In the end, completing the hike, and having that “If I can do that, I can do anything” moment allows the students to believe if they put in the effort, they can get smarter and be stronger. Receiving the Baker’s Badge during the Parade after the Exercise is a powerful moment for the students as it is often the first time they have received recognition for genuine effort.

Staff and students are already training for the event which gets underway on Oct. 8. We are also making arrangements to welcome several guests from RMC, NMNG and other military academies this year and we are all looking forward to the experience.

This year we are very excited to have General Jack R. Fox, the school’s Honourary Colonel and Retired New Mexico Army National Guard Brigadier General, visiting from New Mexico for the Fall Exercise. We look forward to hearing him speak to the students and share his knowledge and experience as a veteran and educator.

Check back here on Oct. 8, 9 and 10 for daily updates from The Fall Exercise along with photos of the event.

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