I'm not one to idolize the military, but I do have a military background, however atypical it might have been. Not much to show for it these days. Nobody even knows I'm a veteran. Nevertheless, I did the training and served the time in two completely different officer classifications, and I was reserve lieutenant colonel-qualified when it was over.
That was me as a young naval sub-lieutenant in 1975, equivalent to a lieutenant j.g. for my American friends. This is the only picture I still have of myself in the navy.
I joined the Canadian Forces while already attending university in 1972 by way of the Regular Officer Training Programme (ROTP), Canada's equivalent to Westpoint or Annapolis, with the exception that I studied at a civilian university instead of the Military College. After graduating, I served my four year commitment as a junior officer in the Navy and I subsequently joined the federal public service.
I worked in and eventually headed a section of the Secretary of State department embedded within National Defence Headquarters. By the time I left for the private sector 11 years later, I had been a member of several NATO Standardization Agreement working parties as well as a senior member in Canadian delegations to standardization conferences in Paris, London and Brussels. I spent the following decade in the private sector as a director of linguistic services and a freelance defence contractor in naval documentation translation and republishing, until the brain fog of renal failure made it hard to concentrate.
Following an 11 year break in uniformed service, I served an additional 7 years with the Army Reserves (referred to as the Militia in Canada), several of which were on full-time call-out. After appropriate retraining, I became a fully-qualified Logistics (Transport) officer and a graduate of the Militia Command & Staff Course (MCSC) at Land Forces Atlantic Area (Halifax) and Fort Frontenac (Kingston ON).
Being a self-employed army reservist, I was often free to fill positions in various brigade and division headquarters, as well as serve in regular force division and brigade exercises, provincial-level emergency measures organization exercises and take in-service courses that might not otherwise have been available to me, or just to get things done when nobody else was available. In other words, I was what we used to call a Militia bum. As a result, in a relatively short time, I had occasion to command units in garrison and in the field as well as several major field exercise advance parties, was a vice-regal aide-de-camp, member of the Directing Staff on several junior officer staff courses, member of a Reserve Officer Selection Board, a team captain and frequent competitor in military shooting competitions, brigade public information spokesman, staff officer in a brigade HQ (G3 Logistics, G4 Transport, G4 Plans and G4 Operations), regimental liaison officer embedded with a county Emergency Measures Organization headquarters during the ice storm of 1998, and PMC of a combined regular and reserve garrison officers' mess.
In the course of my duties as a full-time staff officer, I was the sole logistics planner and exercise writer for the first ever division level summer reserve concentration that combined field deployment with a computer-assisted command post exercise in 1997, and I was the investigating officer in several brigade and division boards of inquiry involving ethnic discrimination and sexual harassment. And if that wasn't enough, I was qualified to blow up dud munitions, drive every soft-skinned vehicle in the inventory, and I was a garrison Mobile Support Equipment Officer (MSEO) running courses and signing drivers' licences for several years.
Unfortunately, while I tried to hang on long enough to earn a CD, I came up a year short as chronic renal failure made it impossible to continue. While technically a veteran of 11 years, I only served in peacetime and, I have to say the closest I ever came to a shooting war was being near the Philippine Sea during the fall of Saigon in 1975. I was aboard one of six destroyers and two fleet replenishment vessels headed to Japan after participating in Exercise RIMPAC 75 when we received a warning order to assist in the rescue of refugees. Ultimately though, after a day of making ready for combat, only half the formation was redirected there while we continued to Kagoshima. Close but no cigar. Many years later, I was already medically-restricted due to kidney disease during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and so the best I could do was to fill-in at home for regular force officers who went there.
The kidney disease eventually put me on hemodialysis for four years, until I finally received a kidney transplant from the waiting list. It's still working well at this writing, but I was so far out of the loop by then that I never recovered beyond being an old over-educated, over-qualified bum. Should I suddenly fall through a time portal back into the Cold War, I'm qualified to command a battalion or serve as a senior staff officer in a Canadian Corps defending Western Europe against a Soviet invasion. Not much call for that now even if I was still young and healthy.
Me as Officer Commanding Transport Company, 32 (Moncton) Service Battalion, 1991. One of my men took the picture.
Member of the Directing Staff, Militia officer staff course held at Land Forces Atlantic Area Headquarters in Halifax, circa 1991. I'm the short guy in the middle of the front row.
Another Militia Officer Staff Course, held at Camp Aldershot (Nova Scotia) circa 1992. That's me at the right in the front row. I commanded the advance party and then was an instructor and syndicate leader.
These pictures were taken by one of my men on a local field exercise when I commanded Supply & Transport Company, 32 Service Battalion in Moncton (New Brunswick). In a traditional war scenario, somebody's got to get stuff from the rear to the front line units, right? Well, we trained for that and, as would-be easy targets for the enemy, for defending ourselves while doing it.