On December 18, a dedicated group of 10 RMC officer cadets and one staff member will depart Kingston for the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world, located in Tanzania.The plan is to reach the summit by the seventh day through the Lemosho route. The RMC Foundation has subsidized the team through donations from friends, parents and ex-cadets.
The team has prepared physically and mentally. Members trained four times each week, doing multiple runs, weight training sessions, and marches with their packs weighing up to 27 kg. The team trained hard and received mentorship from several retired and serving military members, as well as experts and educators from different occupations. Topics included mental resilience, mountaineering, elite fitness, and operational planning. The goal is to give the team as many tools as possible to help them respond to any obstacles that may arise.
The Kilimanjaro expedition team members
David Leonardo Guerrero
OCdt David Leonardo Guerrero of Surrey, British Columbia, is a fourth-year Artillery Officer in training who immigrated to Canada when he was 10. As the team captain, he has a relentless desire to make sure everything is prepared for this expedition and things go according to plan. He prepares for the climb through meditation. Of note, he will carry the Class of 1969’s RMC flag to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“This expedition will challenge and test many of the skills required of future CAF officers including, but not limited to, leadership, teamwork, operational planning, task focused training, mental resilience, and physical stamina; what other experience could beat this?”
Austin James Hannaford
OCdt Austin James Hannaford from Calgary, Alberta, was the starting goaltender for the RMC Paladins, and is the team’s physical training representative this year. Following the example of his great-grandfather, John Ivor James, Austin joined the CAF as a Pilot. As the team`s strongest source of humour, Austin will carry his Top Secret Santa gift to the summit.
“To me the Kilimanjaro trip is something more then just a mountain climb, it’s a challenging experience with friends that I will remember for the rest of the life. Also, an added perk is that we may summit on Dec 26th, which will be my 23rd birthday. A birthday I will never be able to match.”
OCdt David Hamilton from Ottawa, Ontario, is one of the team’s medical representatives. As an aeronautical engineer at RMC, he learns how to build and design aircraft. However, after his first mountaineering experience with the RMC Expedition Club, he has chosen to attain altitude a different way. His time on the team has taught him many valuable skills, and the group is one of his daily motivators.
“To me, this Kilimanjaro expedition is our team’s crucible. The crucible is the culminating challenge that will test our abilities to the limit. Through this experience, we all gain some mental resilience, teamwork and (maybe) a sunburn.”
OCdt Émilie Prud’homme from Gatineau, Quebec, handles the team’s logistics, a role that has been excellent practice for her career as an Army Logistics Officer. Émilie is an avid climber who has peaked Mt. Washington with her parents in the past. She will be carrying a picture of her family to the summit. She has learned the importance of planning ahead and that plans must be adaptable.
“For me, the climb means accomplishing something that once seemed impossible. I think that doing this trip will prove to me that I am more capable than I would have once thought. And to have the chance to do it with this team will just make it even better.”
OCdt Zachary Roche from Markham, Ontario, was in Grade 9 when he realized his dream was to attend RMC and become a Pilot. Since arriving at RMC, he has climbed Mt. Washington and Mt. Marcy, and completed several half-marathons. By exposing himself to a broad range of experiences and challenges, he can find his limits and grow past them. Preparing for the Mt. Kilimanjaro expedition has required daily physical and mental training on top of his already-busy schedule. Sometimes this induces a lot of stress, and learning to deal with that stress has been a good challenge and valuable tool towards being a future CAF officer.
“To me, climbing Kilimanjaro represents the essence of RMC itself. I am here because I want to be pushed to my limits, to grow past them and ultimately to become the best version of myself that I can be right now.”
Jacques Daniel Pecora
OCdt Jacques Daniel Pecora from Aurora, Ontario, is the team`s second-in-command. He joined the CAF to seek out unique experiences and be part of the team has provided those in droves. As a strong believer that less weight is good weight, he will not be carrying any unnecessary items with him. After welcoming new team members, he realized he should not fear or avoid change because it offers new perspectives.
“This expedition is an opportunity for me to gain valuable life experience in a challenging environment. It will provide me with knowledge and skills that will make me a more efficient junior officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.”
OCdt Eric Sturgeon from Kingston, Ontario, has one of the most daunting challenges on the team -- being the fundraising representative. Eric is an Aerospace Engineering Officer taking computer engineering at RMC. As a former member of his high school improv team, Eric brings balance and a positive outlook to the team. He plans to carry Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations with him, as well as a speaker to boost morale (playing all sorts of things, but mostly Toto’s Africa) and his lucky red hat.
“It would take a lot to drag me away from the Kilimanjaro trip. It's a chance to embark on an adventure, to push myself further than I have ever gone and to see things I never thought I could. In the words of a great man, "I say dance, they say 'How high?'" and I intend to make it as high as I can.”
Ryan Timothy Stanley Villeneuve
OCdt Ryan Timothy Stanley Villeneuve from Brooks, Alberta, is the team’s photography representative. He joined the CAF as an Infantry Officer seeking a job that demands both physical fitness and critical thinking. He has been climbing since his childhood. He brings his fantastic mustache and his own favourite toque.
“Climbing Kilimanjaro is a test of mental and physical fortitude. The shared difficulty in this challenge will impact the interpersonal relations of the group, in effect forcing us to become a closer and more cohesive team. It is a challenge that I look forward to overcoming with the team!”
Fraser Jonathan Clark
OCdt Fraser Jonathan Clark from Edmonton, Alberta, is the team’s equipment manager. While Mt. Kilimanjaro is the first high-altitude mountain he has attempted, he has conquered an untold number of mountains before across East Asia. As an Engineering Officer, his skills in carrying heavy things for long distances is both vital to the team`s success and his success in his military career.
“The Kilimanjaro expedition is a trip of a lifetime. As an RMC team, this trip embodies for me the hard work and the challenges that we each, both individually and as a team, set out to overcome throughout our time here at the college, in addition to on the mountain!”
MWO Richard Corneau, originally from Montreal, is the team’s supervisor. Trained as Lineman, MWO Corneau has more than 30 years of service in the Canadian Armed forces and is currently the Infrastructure Coordinator at RMC. He brings years of experience to the young team, drawing on lessons learned during years of hiking, white-water canoeing, sea kayaking, rock climbing and mountaineering, not to mention completing four marathons, a military Iron Man competition, and perhaps most gruelling, six years in the infantry.
“I have never been to Africa. The Military has sent me everywhere accept Africa. This is going to be awesome.”