As a Veteran, I get asked fairly frequently, if I think a career in the Canadian Armed Forces would be a good choice for a young person. My answer, always, is “Yes!”
The Canadian Armed Forces have a lot to offer a young person. If you join for the right reasons. There are many wrong reasons to sign up for your Nation’s military.
The simple desire to have a “job” would be one of them. Most jobs have relatively little effect on your life outside the job.
Not so the military. It doesn’t take very long before you find that talking or interacting with “civvies”, civilians, can be taxing. The military has taught you its own shorthand. Those that have never served don’t understand. You have to edit yourself, simply to be understood. This gets tiring, so you spend more time with folks who understand. The military is where you best fit.
You’ll also notice that civvies tend to “dither”, they stop and consider almost everything. You did too, until the military quietly taught you to observe, assess and act. Of course, the civvie isn’t actually dithering. They are considering, in a reasonable manner, how best to proceed.
You’ve never read much Voltaire, Plato or even Shakespeare. You have grasped the concept they all cover in some form of “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” You’ve come to understand that an imperfect solution now is vastly superior to a perfect solution too late. Voltaire, Plato and Shakespeare notwithstanding, you will come to understand the writings of Rudyard Kipling. To be certain, the situation today is vastly superior to that of which Kipling writes. Enough truth remains to speak to a service member’s soul.
Nor are the literary limits yet reached. Serve long enough and there is no way you will avoid the writings of Sun Tzu and his “Art of War.” You will even be able to properly attribute “War is the continuation of diplomacy by other means.”
All these literary allusions come long after Basic though. Basic is where the military will, with great patience and understanding, convert you from a civvie to the larval form of a military member.
“HEAD UP! EYES FRONT! PULL THOSE SHOULDERS BACK! HEELS TOGETHER, FEET SPREAD AT A 45 DEGREE ANGLE. FISTS CLENCHED WITH YOUR THUMBS DOWN THE SEAM OF YOUR TROUSERS!”
So sorry! It seems your “civvie” understanding of “patience and understanding” are slightly at odds with what those words mean in the military. You’ll adapt.
You see, the military, unlike most institutions you are used to, trusts you to be an adult capable of acting correctly under the circumstances. Right up to the moment that you prove incapable, then it treats you like a drooling idiot incapable of pouring urine out of a boot that had instructions printed on the bottom. From that point forward you will be given detailed instructions and chided into the correct form and actions. You earn your way back up to the level of independent thought and action.
The military does actually understand nuance, the “shades of grey” that sit between black and white. Like so many things, it has a slightly different meaning in military service. Duties and responsibilities are not nuanced. They have been properly dealt with, or they have not. “Sorta” is not an answer. A tasking may still be ongoing. If you are to find success you will also find that you don’t stop until the requirement is met.
The nuance comes later, once you reach your first posting after training. Your first posting will seem almost relaxed. You won’t realize, and wouldn’t believe anyone who suggested it, but you are in a workplace far more disciplined than any other you might find. It seems slack to you, discipline lacking, because training has had an elevated level to instil military traditions and discipline in you.
You’ll find this relaxation almost as confusing as Basic was. Informal situations, even in uniform, abound. Corporals, Master Corporals and Sergeants seem almost human. A certain degree of familiarity can even be achieved in most circumstances. You will struggle at first to find the right balance, these folks will help. Certain tones of voice, you will find, mean, “We’re just talking.” Other tones clearly mean, “I’m talking, you’re listening, and then you’re doing.”
The years go by, and you find yourself settling in. Life is good. You won’t consider it at this point, but you have already done things, seen things and experienced things that most will never know. You’ll have plenty of complaints to be sure! You may even have a healthy desire to find the guy who says “EXERCISE! EXERCISE! EXERCISE!” over the PA system in such a cheerful voice at O’ dark-thirty. Find him in a deserted alleyway, at night… with no witnesses.
Now comes your second posting. Your Career Mangler… errr… Manager has an esoteric method of deciding which of your three preferred bases you won’t be going to. This too, you will adapt to. DO NOT fall prey to an attempt to using the “Reverse Triangle” method of choosing your posting preferences. Any attempt to do so will result in your Career Mangler being able to find you a space at one of the places you chose. You’ve been warned!
Your career will progress, with posting and, hopefully, promotions. One day, it will be time to retire and leave the Service. This day will leave you proud, but saddened. A certain loss of identity follows this, it’s understandable.
It’s also false. You may not have the uniform, but you are still who you were for all those years in uniform. “Been there, done that” isn’t just idle chatter. Along the way, you will have made lifelong friends, and suffered losses. Military life, even barring combat, is not the safest profession in the world. Pride remains.
One day a young person will come to you and ask if they should sign up. You’ll think of all those days cold, wet, miserable and with little or no sleep. All the sacrifices, all the sweat and all the blood will come to mind. So to will come to mind all the good times. Those rewarding moments when you, personally, made a difference. You’ll recall the camaraderie, those friends you will have for life.
You will know that you have suffered more for your chosen vocation than most ever do.
And yet, on balance, it was good. No, not merely good. It was great!
You will, like I do, tell it honestly. You’ll talk about both good and bad. You can’t stop from selling the Service to your listener though. They can see it in you, were you 18 again… straight to the Recruiting Centre to sign up.
You’ll offer one last piece of advice, “Don’t sign up if you can’t take a joke”.
They don’t understand, but those who sign up will.
We always do.