Supporting those who serve: Effective soldiers need strong families

Article / July 26, 2019 / Project number: 18-0438

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By Tim Bryant, Western Sentinel newspaper

Edmonton, Alberta — While members of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1 CMBG) were working their way towards High Readiness, much was going on behind the scenes to ensure the soldiers and their families receive the support they need.

“We’re really fortunate in 1 CMBG that a flanking organization of ours is the 3rd Canadian Division Support Group (3 CDSG),” explained Colonel Bob Ritchie, Commander 1 CMBG.

As a support formation, 3 CDSG has a range of professionals at its disposal to provide needed support not only to the soldiers, but also to the soldiers’ families and friends.

An extra layer of support from those who have been there

The support 3 CDSG provides is flexible and can be tailored to each family’s needs, Col Ritchie said. It serves as an extra layer beyond the planning soldiers and their families have already done in building their own support networks.

As an example, he said, the 3 CDSG network can step in and step up in the immediate aftermath of an incident if the soldier’s family’s own network is not available. It is a 24-7 service that can muster resources if required, even if the only resource needed is someone to watch the kids so the spouse at home can deal more easily with the situation at hand.

In addition, the 3 CDSG network is well-versed in the military world. While a personal network has the shared experience of knowing a family both before and after it became a military family, it might lack all the necessary background, Col Ritchie explained.

“The military’s a unique place to be and it’s got unique challenges,” he said. “It’s got its own language and its own culture. I think it draws great strength when a military spouse is able to reach out to other people who have been through those challenges before.”

Strong family, strong soldier

Bringing this necessary support to the forefront is a priority of the 3rd Canadian Division (3 Div) leadership, particularly Brigadier-General Trevor Cadieu, Commander 3 Div, who has been dedicated to the well-being of the family and who views the family as an extension of the soldier, explained Col Ritchie.

“If we want to have an effective soldier, we need to have a strong family,” Col Ritchie said. “What we’re really trying to do with the Division and the Canadian Army is marshal and harness all the different resources around a soldier and the soldier’s family.”

Military Family Resource Centres are key

One of the largest parts of that support network, but by no means the only component, is the Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) at each base.

For Colonel Scott McKenzie, Commander 3 CDSG, the MFRCs in Edmonton and elsewhere in the Division provide an invaluable service.

“The MFRC provides exceptional services at each of the bases within the 3rd Canadian Division’s area of operations,” he said. “The warriors of 1 CMBG are receiving outstanding support in Edmonton, Shilo and Wainwright that enables their success throughout the challenging and often stressful Road to High Readiness journey.”

In addition, Col McKenzie said additional resources are being brought in to support Reserve Canadian Brigade Groups (CBGs) who will be contributing essential augmentation to 1 CMBG on deployments. Most recently, a full-time unit liaison officer was hired to assist in the Southern Alberta region and support the families of 41 Canadian Brigade Group soldiers on high readiness training.

Edmonton MFRC executive director Roza Parlin said the centre is capable of providing assistance for almost any issue a soldier or family member may experience.

Support before, during and after deployment

“The Edmonton MFRC supports families before, during and after deployments and work-related absences,” she said. “We understand the unique challenges of military life require our programs and services to be adaptable to the needs of our families.”

Among the services available are one-on-one sessions with the centre’s Deployment Co-ordinator to discuss the Road to Mental Readiness, which helps with developing positive mental preparedness.

Families are also encouraged to meet with the deployment team and sign up for emails to find out about social and special events that are offered throughout the year, Ms. Parlin added.

“Our casual and emergency childcare, mental health and wellness team, services for Francophone families as well as child, youth, and parenting support are a few of the services available to military families as they prepare for high readiness,” she said.

Meanwhile, out at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba, Lieutenant Colonel Dave MacIntyre, who was Base Commander at the time, had high praise for what the MFRC does.

 “The Shilo MFRC and other community service providers have a lot of corporate knowledge and experience in supporting our families during high-readiness training or deployment,” he said. “Soldiers from the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry should have full confidence that their families will continue to get the high level of service they’ve come to expect.”

As of July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020, 1 CMBG is certified at High Readiness and has already begun overseas deployments. For more details about the Road to High Readiness, please refer to the Related Links item “Edmonton’s 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group on ‘Road to High Readiness’”

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