By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
Toronto, Ontario — A new milestone has been reached in an initiative to train Canadian Army (CA) Reservists in long-distance trucking: a United States border crossing.
For the past three years Sergeant Tim Canning, a Regular Force soldier serving with 32 Service Battalion (32 Svc Bn) in Toronto, has been instructing Reservists in the many tasks and responsibilities associated with moving military equipment via transport truck.
Strengthening the Army Reserve
It is all part of the larger Strengthening the Army Reserve (StAR) strategy, through which the CA is integrating Reservists more closely with the Regular Force and expanding the range of duties performed by Reservists. It also allows the Army to become more self-sufficient, as civilian trucking contractors will be needed less.
Sgt Canning said he likes to give his students real-world experience as much as possible and was happy to answer a recent call from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), which was in need of trucking support to bring equipment home from an exercise in New Mexico in the United States.
Private Randy Avery was behind the wheel for the run, which began in Toronto in late February, with Sgt Canning on hand for guidance.
Hauling equipment and munitions on exercise and deployments
“Going down to New Mexico is just an amazing training opportunity,” Sgt Canning said. “Even after a driver is qualified, they often don’t get to do things like crossing the border and hauling this type of cargo very often. We really focus on making sure they’ve got the skills and experience before we send them out into the world to do the job.”
“The cargo is going to be a mixture of things but the biggest part of it is ammunition and vehicles,” he added.
“Having the Reserve Force respond to our call for immediate support was ideal,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Vivian, CSOR’s Commanding Officer. “Their ability to partner with various units and organizations to achieve myriad tasks and missions speaks to the strength of the Reserve Force. As a regiment we are proud to have many Reservists employed at the unit and routinely rely on their expertise.”
Having qualified Reserve truckers available will have many benefits, Sgt Canning said.
“There are constantly deployments or exercises happening,” he said. “There’s so much going on all the time and for us to be able to take care of ourselves is very important. And for our people to have these skills and be self-sufficient is a key thing for the military because, when we go overseas, we still do trucking when we’re there. It’s a different platform that we’re using – big armoured trucks – but we’re still doing it. And we don’t have civilian contractors over there to do it for us. So to have those skills before we go, especially into a combat zone, is really important.”
Saving on long-haul civilian trucker costs
Lieutenant-Colonel David DeVries, 32 Svc Bn’s Commander, explained that the trucking initiative is being run on a trial basis until 2020, when it is hoped as many as 24 Reservist drivers will have been qualified.
“This creates a set role for Reservists, where they can be doing something day-in, day-out that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) need. We spend a lot of our budget for long-haul on contractors when using soldiers is a more cost-effective method. We’ve identified that we need competent drivers, and this provides not only a way to train our drivers for domestic tasks, but also for when they go on deployment – so we’ll have people who are familiar with the equipment.”
Canadian diversity and inclusion a key strength
He also noted that 32 Svc Bn, like the CA as a whole, welcomes Canadians from all walks of life. While civilian and military trucking may be male-dominated at the moment, he added, the Battalion already has a female trucker, Corporal Jeanette Lapensée, who also returned equipment from New Mexico using a separate vehicle.
“Women represent almost 15 per cent of our unit,” LCol DeVries said. This aligns 32 Svc Bn with current numbers across the CAF. According to Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy, the aim is to raise the number of women members by one per cent a year to reach at least 25 per cent by 2026.
Members of visible minority communities, LCol DeVries added, will feel very much at home at 32 Svc Bn, which clearly reflects the rich ethnic diversity of its hometown.
“Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world and over 50 per cent of our unit representing visible minorities,” he said.
This is good news and strongly supports the defence policy, which is committed to building a workforce that reflects Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion.
“We’re highlighting them so that other people from those diverse communities will say, ‘Wow. This is something I could do.’”