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Support a reservist, drive a tank

Special to Castanet by Tara Panrucker

An all-expenses-paid trip to Eastern Canada's largest military facility brought more than 40 business executives out to get acquainted with Canadian reservists in New Brunswick at the end of August.

The CFLC began over thirty years ago and is comprised of senior executives within the public and private sectors. Every year these individuals volunteer their time to encourage employers to hire and support employees who are in the reserves. Reservists receive leadership training and acquire valuable skills (such as learning to focus under stress) that can transfer to the work force and benefit businesses.

This year the invitation was extended to attend an Executrek in Gagetown, New Brunswick, the largest military facility in Eastern Canada.

One of the main objectives of Executrek is for visitors to witness firsthand how reservists may serve businesses as future employees.

The trip usually takes place over the course of one day during Canada’s Reserve Force training exercises. Executives are able to speak with reservists directly about what they are doing and why, and get a feel for their goals and motivations.

Reserves include men and women who have joined Canada’s Army, Royal Canadian Navy or Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve as a part-time career. Approximately one-third is high school or university students.

Peter McDougall is the New Brunswick Chair of the CFLC and associate vice president of human resources and organizational development at the University of New Brunswick.  

“Our citizen-soldiers in the reserve are an essential but often misunderstood part of Canada’s defence strategy. It is vitally important that employers understand what they do, why they do it and how employers can support them," he said. 

"There is no better way to achieve this than by having employers get up-close and personal with reservists as and where they train whether on land, at sea or in the air.”

Canada’s reservists also serve a vital role in domestic emergencies (such as wildfires) and are intrinsic to missions abroad.

The Executrek held Aug 26 to 27 of this year packed a lot of action into two days of training exercises.

Attendees were instructed to wear casual dress for outdoors, bring a hat, long sleeve shirt, long pants, rain jacket, good footwear and sunglasses. All were welcome to snap pictures.

Accommodations for overnight visitors comprised a block of enhanced rooms on the Gagetown base, similar to a hotel room. Transportation included a white school bus, the back of a green army transport truck, and walking.

Training activities ranged from driving a tank to flying in a Griffin helicopter. Classroom visits for rehydration (temperatures soared into the humid 30s), snacks, and brief Power Point presentations were interspersed throughout the day. All attendees signed waivers prior to activities.

August 26 was day one, which began with breakfast in the mess hall and learning the intricacies of navigating a large cafeteria. The tank exercise began at 13:00 and was a without a doubt a highlight of the trip for many participants.

After transport to the training grounds, an intimidating 70-ton tank came roaring down the gravel road. Most took advantage of the chance to drive a TLAV (Trac Light Armored Vehicle) ‘Creeper’ that goes up to 60 km/hour, and be a passenger in the even faster Leopard 2A4, flies bouncing off of faces throughout. 

A lot of dust was consumed and a cool shower at the end of the day never felt so good. Everyone relaxed with a meet and greet that evening.

Day two saw over 40 guests outfitted with a field kit for transport by one of many Griffin helicopters from Gagetown base to Petersville.

Items provided in the kits were bug spray, hearing and eye protection, sunscreen, flak jackets (camouflage vests), and helmets. Various speakers and presenters kept everyone informed and moving from one training station to the next. They also observed a Fire Reserve Demolition and the Ex Strident Tracer Collective Training Event, where reservists fired a crater some distance up the hill.

Approximately 700 reserves partook in the exercises.

McDougall says reservists require flexibility to leave for training, and the CFLC advocates employers support that. In return, businesses reap the benefits of skills reservists bring to the workplace.

“Canadian Forces reservists dedicate significant time and effort to their military careers on top of the time that they spend in their civilian occupation," he said. "They always appreciate the interest that their employer is demonstrating by attending an Executrek to see them train so that they better understand both the role of the reserves and the added value that a reservist brings to the workplace.”

Reservists foster dedication, time management, overcoming obstacles, and strategic problem solving. Visitors observed them as passionate and eager to share their particular knowledge, from tank tracks to artillery specs. They displayed camaraderie and a strong work ethic – one reservist described spending 36 hours in the small space of a tank. 

Businesses, educators, and employers may offer support to reservist employees in a variety of ways.

For example, signing a statement of support that shows your community your business values their service or making military-friendly leave a company policy. Employer support awards are also offered from the CFLC.

Home Depot of Canada Inc. and Ledcor are past BC award recipients.

The links below lead to further information about joining the reserves, how employers can help hire and support a reservist, how you may attend an Excecutrek, along with other CFLC programs:

http://forces.ca/en/page/careeroptions-123

http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/business-reservist-support/index.page

http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/business-reservist-support/events-executrek.page

 

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