“Basic Training”

I spent about 5 years in the Canadian Forces, Primary Reserves. I wrote my entrance battery exams in Fredericton NB, August 1995. Since I was at
at the time, and had just started back after a ‘year off’, I wasn’t too keen on leaving the city much at all, so my only choice was Army Reserves, and specifically Infantry – the queen of battle.

I found out later that as far as Reserves went, my only choice would have been infantry anyway, since no other branches seemed to be recruiting at the time, and everybody else was encouraged to go that way. (Particularly the women, but that’s another story.)

I was sworn in October 1995, did my QL3 Infantry (aka basic training, 6 weeks for Reservists) in the summer of 1996, and was made a Private in the fall of the same year. I did a comms course in the summer of 1997, got promoted to Corporal that fall, then moved to Truro NS and eventually transferred to the infantry unit there. I got out when I got engaged to Linda and started looking for jobs in Waterloo. I was going to join a rifle company here, but that never happened. (Again, that’s another story.)

While on various exercises, I served as your basic rifleman, section machine gunner, platoon mortarman, and platoon and company signaller. I almost ran down a Major General in our armouries. I was ragged out by and earned the respect of some of the best (sometimes bearing the former and accomplishing the latter simultaneously). I’ve done section attacks for 6 hours in temperatures approaching 42 degrees Celsius (before adjusting for humidity). I’ve laid in snowbanks with a radio on my back and a rifle in my hand, absolutely silent, while around me the snow melted and refroze, sticking me to the ground. I’ve stalked people in high grass and patrolled through half-frozen swamps. On one memorable occasion, I helped my short section set up a 10 man tent in a blizzard/ice storm at 2300h in -45C temps. I quick marched the entire length of the Confederation Bridge the day it opened.

In short, I saw lots of cool things, shot holes in some of them (and missed a few more), met a lot of interesting people, and learned many things (some of which I’d rather not have known). The Reserves are full of every kind of person. Many officers are teachers. Lots of the NCMs are university students and blue collar workers.

What is the point of all this? I won’t go so far as to say I live and breathe Army; that’s obvious from the fact that I’m not still in. I will say that my career, short as it was, was very important to me, and I wouldn’t trade my time in for anything. It changed my perceptions, both internal and external; it changed me physically. It didn’t cause a radical change in my life, but I am a much different person now than I was before I got in, and it’s not all simple age.