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NICHOLAS MERCER: Deer Lake man takes first assignment with RCMP

Deer Lake native Junior Pinksen graduated from the RCMP Training Academy in Regina, Sask. earlier this month.
Deer Lake native Junior Pinksen graduated from the RCMP Training Academy in Regina, Sask. earlier this month. - Contributed

Call it a midlife crisis if you’d like.

Or, perhaps it's more a desire to acknowledge something that’s been pulling at him for more than two decades. It was just time to go for it.

Or is it just the desire to follow through on something you’ve always wanted to do or pursue a life that was previously unavailable to you.

In the case of Deer Lake native Junior Pinksen, it was a yearning to become a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Still, at 48 years old, becoming an officer of the law doesn’t seem like it’d be high on the list of jobs people go to in order to restart their careers.

Either way, there he was at the RCMP Training Academy in Regina, Sask. with 32 other cadets in Troop No. 3 in an attempt to spend the next six-and-a-half months aiming to become a member of the police force.

The drive to complete the RCMP training is something you have to admire from Pinksen. It takes a lot of guts and determination to attempt such a stark change in life direction when you're 48.

Others would shrink at the thought of taking a 180-degree turn, packing their bags and heading to the Prairies to put themselves through the RCMP academy.

It is not a story you hear every day and its more likely to appear on a movie screen than anything else.

Chances are high that Steve Guttenburg, Kim Cattrall and Bubba Smith weren’t enrolled in this version of Police Academy either. It was going to be hard work and he met it head on. Good on him.

“I was the old man in the troop,” said Pinksen. “Some of the people in my troop were the age of my children.

“They treated me with a lot of respect.”

For the next 26 weeks, their lives were early rises mixed with firearm drills, marching, driving simulations, classroom work and a host of other things designed to prepare them for life as an officer.

He forged a lifelong relationship with the 26 of his classmates who did graduate, yet there was still a question to be answered: How does a man two birthdays away from 50 keep himself going for half a year?

He did it by taking things one week at a time.

Every Monday he would tell himself to try to get to Friday. Before long, he was six weeks in. Then, three months. And, finally he was handed his badge at graduation.

“There was tremendous support from home,” said Pinksen. “They were a driving force.”

There was a time when this wasn’t going to be the future for Junior Pinksen.

He was going to continue to serve the Town of Deer Lake as the recreation director and give his best as a volunteer.

The dream started in 1991 when Pinksen joined the Deer Lake Volunteer Fire Department. In his role with the group, he worked with members of the local police detachment and came to admire the work they did.

That admiration continued to grow as he continued to work alongside them on various community events.

With a family that was still growing, it never seemed like the right time for Pinksen to take the leap.

Then it looked as if it would never happen. It’s been five years since a heart attack that forced him to take a hard look at his life.

It meant managing his diet a bit more, increasing his exercise load and committing himself to a new lifestyle.

It was only after rebuilding himself from that traumatic experience and speaking with his wife that it became the right time.

Even then, it was two years before he heard if it was going to become a reality. Pinksen applied for the RCMP in 2016.

He didn’t learn of his acceptance until just before the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in January.

From there, it was a whirlwind of a time to get ready for his reporting date of April 16.

“It was a little bit of an eye-opener, but I embraced the challenge,” said Pinksen. “I was a bit nervous going into it.”

So, where now? It's just under an hour and a half from the northern Alberta border to the southern shore of Great Slave Lake where Hay River is found.

It can get pretty cold there in the winter months along the river that runs into the second largest lake in the Northwest Territories.

Temperatures reach as low as -28 C in December, January and February. The all-time low was -48 C set on Feb. 28, 1968.

It might not get that low for Pinksen and his wife, but they’re prepared for it either way.

“Most people look at the cold, but we see it as an adventure,” he said. “One thing we’ve yet to hear is negativity about Hay River."

Spoken with the enthusiasm of a person of the eve of the next big step in their lives.

There is a bit of apprehension, but much more excitement emanating from Pinksen as he begins to settle into the northern community.

I’m sure it won’t be an easy transition, but if you’ve waited this long to pursue a dream as Pinksen has, that transition is something you can manage and push through.

Even if its just to make it to the next Friday. At least for a little while.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at Nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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