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Taking up the fight

Published in the Barrie Advance  

15 November 2006  

Remembrance Day is a day for honouring the sacrifices of Canada’s war veterans. Over the last 100 years, Canadians have answered the call to duty in numerous wars and peacekeeping missions, including the current mission in Afghanistan. For the first time since Korea, Canadians are involved in sustained combat.  

Historically, Canadians have fielded the biggest non-conscript military. It just seems to be an inherent trait that Canadians are willing to serve their country.

During the Korean War, the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade was established and manned mainly with volunteers, some with no previous experience, to augment the Regular Force units that Canada sent.

One Barrie reservist scheduled to serve in Afghanistan is Pte Tyler Linington, 20, who will be delaying schooling and civilian job opportunities for the immediate future. Originally scheduled to begin a five-month tour in Kabul as a general labourer with an engineering unit last month, Linington was instead put onto a stand-by list for the next available spot.

This is an unfortunate reality for some reservists wishing to serve overseas.

Even when they have been selected and made arrangements to be absent from their job or school, their lives can be put on indefinite hold while they await deployment. Sometimes they miss out on other opportunities as a result.

Although Afghanistan is a dangerous mission for a soldier, Linington still feels drawn to serve.

“I believe if something happens, it happens for a reason,” he says alluding to the risk that he may make the supreme sacrifice for his country. This is why a supportive family is also a must for anyone serving in the Canadian Forces.

Linington cites the fact that his father, mother and brother all serve in the Canadian Forces, with influencing his decision to join the Grey and Simcoe Foresters (G & SF) at the Barrie Armoury in October 2005.

A former Sea Cadet who once served as an honorary Aide de Camp to Ontario Lt. Governor James Bartleman, Linington also cites a sense of adventure, a desire to serve his country and a chance to do something important as reasons for joining the Canadian Forces.

Despite his own career choice, Tyler’s father, Sgt Spencer Linington, a veteran of 24 years, never pushed his son into joining the military. “It was always his choice,” said Sgt Linington. As to whether he has any concerns about Tyler going to Afghanistan, he says, “It’s part of his job. I serve too and, in our family, we all look at is as what we do.”

It’s not just junior privates who are going overseas. G & SF Commanding Officer LCol William Adcock is a veteran of a United Nations mission in Croatia. Adcock, with 42 years in the reserves, is currently employed as the head of the sociology department at Sheridan College in Oakville. He took an unpaid leave of absence from Sheridan to serve with the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in the former Yugoslavia from September 1994 to April 1995.

Adcock says Sheridan College has always been very supportive of his military career, giving him as much time off as he needs and guaranteeing his job upon return. This generous leave policy may come in handy again as he may be heading off to Afghanistan sometime next year.

The Reserve component of the Canadian Forces is made up of citizens from a variety of professions who undergo training in their spare time away from their jobs, school and family, during evenings, on weekends and during the summer months, sometimes far from home.

The last time the Reserves were placed on active service was during World War II, although this was for home defence only; overseas service was still voluntary.

This has never stopped Reservists from volunteering to go on active service. Currently 13 members the Grey and Simcoe Foresters are serving in Afghanistan. Four other members from Barrie have served in Afghanistan on previous rotations, with nine members who served NATO forces in Bosnia in 2003 and one in Sierra Leone.

Currently, reservists must usually commit to more than a year for overseas deployments. Reservists are placed on a contract that pays them equivalent pay to that of a Regular Force member of equal rank (Reserve Force pay is normally 85 per cent of Regular Force pay), plus danger pay and no federal income tax deductions if they are going into a war zone such as Afghanistan.

Pay rates for Regular Force members range from around $2,400 per month for a private to over $9,000 per month for a colonel. Specialists like medical officers or pilots can earn double that amount.

For reservists, an overseas deployment comes with some unique sacrifices. Currently there is no legislation in force guaranteeing reservists their civilian job upon returning from an extended voluntary deployment, either overseas or domestically. Some reservists face the prospect of unemployment afterwards.

The federal government’s new Public Safety Act, 2002 (Bill C-7) makes a significant change to that concern. Although it doesn’t provide complete protection, the bill does amend the National Defence Act ” … to require employers to reinstate members of the Reserve Force in their employment if they were compulsorily called out in an emergency.”

Specifically, an emergency is defined as “an insurrection, riot, invasion, armed conflict or war, real or apprehended.”

Additionally, amendments to the National Defence Act give federal civil servants time off for military service as long as it doesn’t adversely affect the manpower needs of their respective ministry.

Assisting reservists with their service commitments is the Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC), an advocacy group that promotes the Reserve Force.

The CFLC has several programs to assist service members in informing their civilian employers about the value of reserve military service and securing time off for training and overseas deployments.

As far as job protection, the CFLC has observed in some countries, including the U.S., legislated job protection sometimes proves to be counter-productive. Lt (Navy) Ian Livermore of the CFLC points out that mandatory job protection could result in employers choosing not to hire reservists, knowing that there could be regular, and lengthy, absences by that employee.

“Given that Reserve Force service is voluntary, the position of successive Canadian governments has been that employer support (of job protection) should also be voluntary,” points out Livermore.

Why are so many reservists volunteering to go on overseas deployments? Capt Jeff Shadlock, public affairs officer for the G & SF, states that for many reservists, it’s why they joined in the first place. When training with their respective units, reservists are in “practice mode”, but when they get into a real theatre of operations, everything they do is for real. It seems to be the next logical progression in their training.

The fact that others have served overseas can also be inspiring to other members of a military unit. “There is a strong sense of regimental spirit,” says Shadlock, a teacher at Nantyr Shores Secondary School. “You want to be a part of that group that has served (overseas).”

The training for army personnel serving on such overseas tours includes Individual Battle Task Standards training, an annual process in basic soldiering skills such as weapons handling, communications, navigation and map reading, tactical field exercises, physical fitness and first aid.

As most of these are the type of training objectives that reservists practice on a yearly basis, most will only require refresher training. Additional training in military driving, foreign languages and negotiation skills can also make up pre-deployment training.

Training for naval personnel includes ship boarding party training, while training for air force personnel includes flight-line procedures.

Back home there are support mechanisms for the families of service members.

Lt.-Col. Adcock ensures the regiment keeps in constant contact with their family members, including hosting a regular regimental tea for family members at the Barrie Armoury. This can be especially important when casualties are reported. Adcock says the regiment was there for the family of Cpl. Dean Lapoint when he was wounded in a Labour Day attack.

Adcock is justifiably proud of his soldiers, seven of whom fought in the Labour Day attack on Canadian troops in Afghanistan, just as commanders and family members have been proud of soldiers in past wars.

To see the full Barrie Advance article, go to – http://www.simcoe.com/article/22525

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/taking-up-the-fight/

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