By Michelle Savage, Army Public Affairs
Ottawa, Ontario — Long gone are the days of the carrier pigeon. Today’s Army Communication and Information Systems Specialists (ACISS) use cutting-edge technology to ensure functional wired and wireless communication for the Canadian Army (CA).
Chief Warrant Officer Tracy-Ann Fisher, who serves with 31 Signal Regiment in Hamilton, Ontario, had ties to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) prior to joining the Army Reserve. Her grandfather served as a Despatch Rider during the Second World War and would talk about his exciting experiences delivering critical messages to military units by motorcycle over treacherous terrain.
CWO Fisher had other family members who served in the Forces. When she was a child, her uncle would take her to Remembrance Day ceremonies followed by a trip to the Royal Canadian Legion where she could spend time with Veterans.
While looking for a summer job at the age of 17, she noticed that the Army Reserve was hiring. The Communication Regiment had posted on her Toronto, Ontario high school’s job board and the rest, as she says, is history.
The technology has changed, but the mission remains the same
While being recruited for the Army Reserve for ACISS, CWO Fisher was not entirely sure what the trade entailed. It was her grandfather who made the connection between her trade and his former position as a Despatch Rider. She would be the second generation in her family to work with communication and information systems for the CAF. While the technology has changed, the mission remains the same, she noted.
Always in high demand, ACISS are experts in radio, satellite and microwave broadband technology, fibre and copper broadband technology, and voice and data delivery services.
They spend much of their time outdoors and are likely to be posted to the Signal Squadrons in Petawawa, Ontario; Valcartier, Quebec; Edmonton, Alberta; or the Joint Signal Regiment in Kingston, Ontario. However, they may work for other units in Canada and abroad.
Teamwork and commitment gets the job done
Camaraderie and teamwork have always played important roles in the Army. For CWO Fisher, friendships are one of the highlights of her work.
“The people I work with are one of the best aspects of my job. You can really tell that they have also made a commitment to get the job done because they truly enjoy the work they are doing,” she said.
As the Regimental Sergeant-Major, the most senior Non-Commissioned Member of her unit, CWO Fisher has a clear understanding of how strong teamwork and leadership lead to effectiveness.
“I really like watching a headquarters unfold. You really know you have trained your soldiers well when, like a well-oiled machine, they all know what they are doing and work together to get the job done.”
Army communications technology marches on with satellites and cyber
Another exciting element of this trade is the continual advancement of technology. “There’s a lot of learning, a lot of new and exciting things, such as cyber,” she said. “So I think the best aspect, besides the people that I’ve met and the friendships that I’ve made, is that we’re moving with the technology. We’re always learning, and we’re always challenging our people to reach their potential.”
During her 27 years with the Army Reserve, CWO Fisher has noticed an increased length in ACISS training. “Over my career, the courses have gotten longer to accommodate the growing requirement to teach the technology, teach the equipment and then provide enough time for practical hands-on experience.”
She has also witnessed the emergence of eLearning, which she believes has been a positive change. “It has allowed the Army to expand and open up some opportunities,” she said.
She used Operation HONOUR, which is the CAF’s policy on addressing harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour, as an example. “When we look at Op HONOUR, you can put a lot of that information out electronically and then it’s always out there. When you’re trying to change a culture, that’s what you need. You need that information out there, all the time, at people’s fingertips.”
CWO Fisher balances family with Army Reserve and civilian employment
Life in the Army seems to be a family affair. CWO Fisher’s husband is also in the Army Reserve as an Infantry Soldier. The couple has two children: a fourteen-year-old daughter and an eleven-year-old son.
CWO Fisher has participated in a number of domestic operations throughout her career. She aided the community of Brockville, Ontario during the 1997 ice storm and participated in Operation LENTUS in 2017 to help fight flooding in Montreal.
Her hard work has not gone unnoticed. CWO Fisher received a Brigade Commander’s Coin in 2012, a Brigade Commander’s Commendation in 2013 and an Army Commander’s Coin in 2017.
As for her civilian job, CWO Fisher works for the City of Hamilton as a Training and Development Specialist. She believes the Army Reserve has given her skills that are transferable to the civilian world. “Leadership, instructional experience, working with others, teamwork, professionalism – these are all aspects of the Army, and civilian employers appreciate these qualities,” she said.
Path to becoming an Army Communication and Information Systems Specialist:
Reservists are required to work one night a week and one weekend a month. However, CWO Fisher said that there is more work available for those who are looking for it. “Because we [Signals] are a support trade, we are supporting all other units. So besides my unit’s own training on a weekend, we could be out one or two weekends a month, supporting other units.”
While she understands that the Army Reserve might not be for everyone, CWO Fisher believes that everyone should consider giving it a try. “The discipline and the knowledge that you learn, and the friends that you make, you’re not going to find that anywhere else.”