Artillery Officers do more than just manage the big guns

Article / January 5, 2017 / Project number: 16-0109

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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Gagetown, New Brunswick  — Captain Isabelle Turner describes her younger self as quiet and “really shy” but today she is making big noises as an Artillery Officer with the Canadian Army.

“That’s why I joined the military: to have a constant challenge,” she added. “I wanted to develop my leadership and confidence.”

Capt Turner is currently the Training Officer of  W Battery at The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School (RRCAS) in Gagetown, New Brunswick and said it does indeed offer the kind of challenges she sought.

“I think it’s a very appealing trade,” she said. “It’s a combat arms trade so you’re bringing support to the infantry and the armoured, but it’s a different type of physical demand. It’s also stimulating to work with math in a command post and it challenges my spatial awareness.”

Captain Craig Cutting, who also works out of RRCAS, said it was the sheer power of artillery that first attracted him to the trade.

“I was a little bit blown away that you could fire 20 kilometres away and accurately hit where you want to hit. I thought, ‘That’s interesting.’”

However, like Capt Turner, he soon found there are many roles an Artillery Officer can play.

“Artillery is so much more than that nowadays,” said Capt Cutting. “Not only do we observe targets with our Forward Observers and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers who can call for fire from the Gun line or initiate a strike with an aircraft, we also have advanced equipment being fielded by the Surveillance and Target Acquisition Batteries, which can detect hostile incoming projectiles.”

He went on to explain that they also recently received unmanned aerial vehicles that can identify and track targets from the air.

“Nowadays, there’s a lot more to the artillery than just putting that bomb down range and hitting the target.”

Capt Cutting moved to his current role of Technical Adjutant after completing the Army Technical Staff Officer Program.

“I help provide a link between the field force and other agencies within the Army,” he explained. “If there are issues with a certain piece of equipment or if we need input to inform a procurement project, I can solicit the pertinent information from all of the units, consolidate it and provide a response.”

“There are many positions that we can fill, and they’re all very different,” added Capt Turner. “That includes being a Recce Officer, Command Post Officer, Gun Position Officer or Safety Officer. I recently got the qualification to be employed as Forward Observation Officer and I’m looking forward to the challenges this new position will bring. ”

The captains both got their starts in the Air Cadets before switching focus to the Canadian Army. For Capt Turner, a competitive athlete since the age of seven, it was a question of wanting a more physical challenge.

From the 763 Bouctouche Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick, not far from her home town of Saint Antoine, then-Trooper Turner moved on to the Army Reserve, joining the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's) in Moncton. After deciding a full-time Army career was for her, next came a two-year stop at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec followed by three years at the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada in Kingston, Ontario.

Capt Turner said she feels fortunate to have been accepted into Artillery, which was her first choice.

She graduated from RMC with a physics degree in 2013. While she does look forward to other experiences as her career progresses, Capt Turner added RRCAS has been a rewarding posting.

“I’m fortunate to be posted to the Artillery School because we spend a lot of time on the guns, shoot numerous rounds and we are exposed to many technical challenges.”

Artillery was Capt Cutting’s second choice of trade. As a member of 19 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadet in Stratford, Ontario, he had hopes of being a pilot. He nonetheless looks back on his career to date with fondness. Since graduating from RMC with a psychology degree in 2008, he has deployed to Afghanistan as a Troop Leader with the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2 RCHA), which he considers a highlight.

“Being able to validate my training, being able to lead troops overseas was rewarding,” he said. “I was in a command post on a gun line. When we received a call for fire, my job, along with my Command Post crew, was to compute the data and issue the firing solution to the guns to execute, ensuring timely and accurate fires wherever they were needed.”

Capt Turner said Artillery Officers must possess intellect, confidence and leadership traits to be successful in the trade.

“Being competent in math is essential on your training phases,” she said. “You have to be confident and quick making decisions. You should have an open mind and be able to work with your senior Non-Commissioned Officers – to take their opinions and advice but, at the end of the day, not be afraid to make your own decisions.”

Capt Cutting echoed those sentiments, adding that a thick skin is also essential.

“A lot of what we do involves following established procedures to the letter. If you mess up and someone calls you on it, you have to be willing to say, ‘Yeah, I messed up, and I need to fix that for next time.’” 

When asked what he sees as the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of the Artillery trade, Capt Cutting said, for him, they are the same.

“It never fails to surprise me and challenge me. I see things on a daily basis that are new to me, and new challenges that I have to tackle. It’s important especially that our fellow combat arms, infantry, armoured, and engineers, see us as more than just guns, because we do bring so much more to the table. We are at times the eyes and the ears of the brigade.”

Quick facts about Artillery Officers in the Canadian Army:

In addition to field guns and rockets, missile systems and target acquisition systems, they are expected to become experts with a wide variety of technologically complex equipment including:

  • laser range finders,
  • fire control computers,
  • communication systems,
  • global positioning systems,
  • surveillance equipment, and
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles.

There are three specialized areas for Artillery Officers: Field Artillery Officer, Air Defence Officer, and Target Acquisition Officer.

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