“Everyone has a different story and different desires for their career” - Reserve service strengthens bonds, the Canadian Army and communities

Image Gallery

Article / February 5, 2016 / Project number: 15-0076

Ottawa, Ontario — Sometimes known as citizen soldiers, Canadian Army (CA) Reservists are professional part-time soldiers who train a minimum of one night per week and one weekend a month in any of 143 units, located in 177 cities and communities across the country.

Canada, unlike many nations, does not require its citizens to perform military service – it is a voluntary decision. Like any part-time job, the extra money it brings can come in handy to help pay for school or to supplement a family’s income, and the training given provides many skills and abilities which often prove valuable in civilian life.

In Canada’s early days, before the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) existed, defence was carried out by the militia – citizens who worked their regular jobs by day and trained in the evening and on weekends, much as our modern-day Reservists do. This tradition of the citizen soldier has become the Canadian Army Reserve Force, with 18,700 Canadians currently taking part.

As Reservists, they still have the flexibility to follow full-time careers in a wide range of civilian occupations or even as full-time students. A benefit for the Army is that while new Reservists need military training, they bring with them their civilian career knowledge and experience, which enhances Army operations.

Master Corporal Marianne Pichette from Le Régiment de Hull in Gatineau, Quebec joined her armoured reconnaissance unit in May 2008. “I was inspired by my older brother and father who both had experience in the Reserve,” she explained. In turn, the younger brother joined Le Régiment de Hull and, for a period of time, both Pichette brothers and their sister were members of the same unit. “These family bonds are common in the Reserve whether or not you are actually from the same family.

The Reserve option is interesting because it allows you to pursue your studies and civilian career as well as doing your military duty and bringing the military experience into the civilian life and the community,” said MCpl Pichette who recently completed a bachelor’s degree and looks forward to receiving an acceptance letter so that she may study for her Master’s degree in physiotherapy. 

Army training is known to be challenging, but every training exercise is also a bonding and teamwork exercise. There is something to be said for “sharing the suffering.” It is not uncommon for Reservists to recall, for example, a patrol they did at three in the morning in the pouring rain and then say “Yes! It was awesome,” and mean it.

There is something to be said for “sharing the suffering.” It is not uncommon for Reservists to recall, for example, a patrol they did at three in the morning in the pouring rain and then say “Yes! It was awesome,” and mean it.

At the weekly parade nights at the local armoury and during monthly weekend training, MCpl Pichette says that besides sustaining her training level and helping to train others, she appreciates the deep sense of community that runs through the unit. “Despite the short nights, rough Monday mornings in the classrooms and periods of time away from the civilian life, the training weekends are worth the hardship because of the bonds and friendship it creates.

The link between the CAF and the Reserves is strengthened by former Regular Force members who have chosen to continue to serve as members of the Reserves and vice versa.

Lieutenant (Navy) Jamie Bresolin, who was part of the Regular Force Navy for four years, mainly in Halifax as a Maritime Surface and Subsurface (MARS) Officer, is an example. After deciding to leave the service, he worked in the public service in Ottawa for about two years before being approached to join the Naval Reserve as a public affairs officer. He completed his nine-month Reserve public affairs officer training in June of 2014 while working at the Army Headquarters.

The primary role of the Reserve Force is to augment, sustain, and support the 22,800 current members of the Regular Force. Not all Reservists are employed or in school full-time outside the CA; in fact, many Reservists serve full-time in the CAF on employment contracts, as does Lt(N) Bresolin. “Being in the Reserve allows people like me to try different jobs in the public service and the civilian world and then bring this knowledge and experience back to the Forces,” he said.

Members of the Reserve Force are not required to go on a deployment; however, they have the option to volunteer for paid deployments if they would like to take part in overseas operations and if there is a need for their skills.

Lt(N) Bresolin notes that many Reservists would jump at the chance to deploy overseas for both patriotic and other reasons, such as experience or higher pay. “Everyone has a different story and different desires for their career,” he said.

In recent years, Reservists have contributed substantially to Canada's international and domestic operations. Since the year 2000, more than 4,000 Primary Reservists from all branches of the CAF have been deployed in operations in Afghanistan, Haiti, Nepal and elsewhere.

In Canada, they have supported the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver; assisted with flood relief efforts in Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta; participated in recovery efforts following ice storms in eastern Canada; fought forest fires in western Canada; and assisted with hurricane relief efforts in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Another important role of the Reserve Force is to serve as a link between the CAF and the Canadian public. They are a force for national unity and a visible reminder to their local communities of the work of the Department of National Defence and the services it provides. Reservists often help at or participate in cultural events, parades, festivals and other public events in their own and neighbouring communities across Canada.

While walking in uniform next to an elementary school on my way to a Remembrance Day parade,” recalled MCpl Pichette, “some children ran towards me to say hello. It gave me a sense of pride and I hoped I would inspire others the same way other women from Le Régiment de Hull have inspired me.

By Lynn Capuano and Sergeant Marc-André Clément, Army Public Affairs

Date modified: