Father and son bond at 1,250 feet

Cadet Warrant Officer Carter Smith of the 2422 Nanaimo Army Cadets walks with his father, RCMP Constable and army reservist Mark Smith, at the drop zone in Trenton, Ont. Photo courtesy Capt Sharon Low

Cadet Warrant Officer Carter Smith of the 2422 Nanaimo Army Cadets walks with his father, RCMP Constable and army reservist Mark Smith, at the drop zone in Trenton, Ont. Photo courtesy Capt Sharon Low

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A Vancouver Island army cadet had a huge surprise when he travelled to Ontario to complete his basic parachute qualification course.

Cadet Warrant Officer Carter Smith of the 2422 Nanaimo Army Cadets was one of 50 army cadets from across the country who had gathered inside a hangar at CFB Trenton on Aug. 13 for the completion of their four-week parachute training course.

Carter, 17, was a tad nervous in the moments leading up to his first-ever parachuting experience. Those pre-jump jitters escalated when he met his jumping partner – his father.

Mark Smith, Nanaimo Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Detachment Constable, and part-time army reservist with the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), hatched a scheme to jump with his son.

“At first I didn’t notice that he was in the hangar, then I saw an older man with a western division patch on his uniform, did a double take and realized it was my Dad,” said Carter. “I was initially confused as to why my father was there, but then I gradually began to realize I was going to be making the jump with him.”

Mark, 47, had previously served as a full-time soldier with the First Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (1RCR) and served as a peacekeeper in Croatia and later as a paratrooper with the 3RCR during the 1990s. But he hadn’t done any parachuting since those days and was due for a refresher course.

He made all the necessary arrangements for the surprise rendezvous with his son weeks in advance of the jump. He received approval for his plan after circulating a carefully written internal memo that eventually received approval from the chain of command.

Mark didn’t get word he would be allowed to jump with his son until four days prior. After getting the green light, he packed his bags and paid for a flight to Toronto and then made the three-hour drive up the 401 Highway to CFB Trenton.

“When he first noticed me there in the hangar Carter couldn’t quite understand what in the world I was doing standing in the jump line with the cadets,” said Mark.  “He bluntly asked me: Dad what are you doing here.?’ He was shocked and couldn’t believe it when I told him I would be suiting up with him and then jumping out of the plane ahead of him.”

After slipping into their safety gear, the pair boarded the twin turboprop Skyvan airplane and waited patiently for their big moment. With perfect summer weather conditions and the morning sun rising over the Bay of Quinte, their plane climbed to the required altitude of 1,250 feet.

“I went off the ramp of the plane and he followed me out about 10 seconds behind me,” said Mark.

Carter says he was too busy focusing on the mechanics of his jump and passing his test to truly realize the significance of his father’s presence. It was only after Carter successfully completed his jump that he realized having his dad there with him provided a huge edge.

“It was definitely a confidence boost seeing him up there and reassured me that I could do it properly,” said Carter. “While I was descending, I could see my dad hit the ground and knowing he had landed successfully reassured me that I could do this properly too.”

Carter says other cadets realized what was transpiring and thought it was “awesome.”

After successfully completing his training, Carter wants to go parachuting again. After five years as a member of the army cadets, he also intends on sticking with his plans to follow in similar footsteps as his father. He wants to pursue a career with the regular force as a medic for airborne operations.

But for now, father and son have a unique memory to cherish.

“I would say it was one of the greatest two minutes I have spent with my son, and one I will remember forever,” said Mark.

Filed Under: Top Stories

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