The 16-year-old Greenfield native has worked her way up to master warrant officer with the 2928 Royal Canadian Army Cadets and is about to reap the benefits of her hard work and dedication to duty.
In the next six months, Atkinson will see parts of the world some only dream of – whether it’s a daydream or a nightmare.
Starting on Saturday, Atkinson will spend a week living in subarctic, freezing hellish conditions in Labrador as part of Exercise Subzero – a cadet training camp based out of Goose Bay.
“I think it’s going to be really fun,” the fifth year cadet said. “It’s a challenge not many other people get to do.”
Amidst freezing winds and temperatures that regularly duck to -30 or lower, Atkinson and fellow Cadets from across the country will learn survival skills. They’ll also learn the full extent of their mental and physical strength.
From there, things will get much easier as the spring turns to summer and the master warrant officer heads to Ottawa for Encounter With Canada – the nation’s largest youth forum. Atkinson will be part of the Vimy Ridge celebration in April, holding ceremonial duties.
During the summer, Atkinson will then head to Scotland for a cadet exchange. She is one of very few cadets to be chosen, after a strict application process and having all her certifications up to date.
“It’s a chance to meet new people from all over, make new friends and have new experiences,” she said. “I’m really excited for it.”
Captain Kevin Morrell, who oversees the local cadet corps, said while it’s tough to be selected for such trips and exercises, they are opportunities available for any cadet.
“Anybody can do it,” he said. “If you work hard enough, any kid in cadets can do these things.”
It doesn’t cost the parents a cent, Morrell said, and the cadets actually get paid for some of the training exercises.
In the meantime, Atkinson will tough it out in the whipping winds of Labrador. It’s not a challenge she ever thought to shy away from.
“I’m a fighter,” she said with a smile. “I like to push my own limits and prove people wrong.”