By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
Borden, Ontario — Military life is often touted as a great way to see the world and, in Master Warrant Officer Jaret Sole’s experience, few military members cover more territory than Mobile Support Equipment Operators (MSE Ops).
MSE Ops, popularly referred to as ‘truckers,’ are the backbone of logistics in the Canadian Army (CA). They operate and maintain a variety of the vehicles needed to move troops, equipment, and supplies into the heart of the fight.
MWO Sole, a Calgary native, decided the MSE Op trade was for him after joining the Primary Reserve at age 17.
“I loved it so much because I got out on the road, I got to see the country,” he said.
An aptitude test taken at the start of his recruitment process indicated transport would be a good fit.
“I always loved driving big things,” he recalled. “My uncle owned a farm so I always drove tractors and stuff.”
During his deployment to Croatia in 1994 as part of Operation HARMONY, Canada’s peacekeeping mission in the region, MWO Sole decided this was the professional life for him.
“As an MSE Op you’re not stuck on a base, you’re actually out driving around,” he said. “So you get to experience the countryside, you get to meet the local people, talk to them, learn a little bit more about whatever culture or society you’re working in. It just makes it an overall memorable experience that way. I decided this is what I wanted to do full time and made the jump into the regular force.”
Now 26 years into his military career, MWO Sole passes his knowledge and experience on as Sergeant Major and Senior Instructor with the Canadian Forces Logistic Training Centre’s Transport Training School at Canadian Forces Base Borden in Ontario.
“I can add some context to what the book says, because reading the book is one thing and actually transferring that knowledge to a real life scenario is much more beneficial to the students. I give everything context: lessons learned on my end, how I dealt with those things. I also teach leadership, the basic attributes that are expected of a leader in a transport section platoon company.”
That additional context includes experiences every bit as harrowing as those experienced in direct combat.
“Going to Afghanistan, for example, preparing for IEDs, roadblocks, possible contact with the enemy,” said MWOSole, who served tours there in 2002 (Operation APOLLO), 2004 and 2007 (Operation ATHENA). “You never know if it’s actually going to happen but you have to prepare for it. Serving in Croatia, you never knew what was going to happen when you were trying to cross from the Serbian side to the Bosnian side. You could be sitting there at a roadblock for two days living out of the cab of your truck at a checkpoint, or they could be cooperative and let you cross right away.”
The work of MSE Ops on base at home is quite different but no less vital.
At Canadian bases, drivers come from the corporal level. “They are the workhorse of our trade. Whether it’s a heavy lift to move Leopard II tanks, or a bus run to pick up new recruits and take them to the training area. At the master corporal level, that’s where they start their basic administrative skills: dispatching and planning these tasks that they receive. Then at the sergeant/warrant level it’s more supervision, more planning, up to my job where I look after the discipline and the training of the troops,” explained MWO Sole.
An effective MSE Op, MWO Sole added, will need more than just a way with machines.
“You definitely have to be able to work long hours in a day, and not mind working alone. When you’re doing tractor-trailer runs, long-haul runs across North America, you’re often given the responsibility as a corporal and you’re by yourself. It’s a lot of responsibility when you’re hauling million dollar loads. You need to be able to solve puzzles and think in 3-D. This piece of equipment needs to go there and you have to figure out how to get it on your truck, how it’s going to fit on your truck, how you’re going to chain it down. Because not everything we haul is four by four square.”
As challenging as the work can be, MWO Sole said he feels a great sense of reward.
“It’s just the appreciation that you feel. You’re bringing a lot of different things to the guys that are on the front line. Whatever it might be, there’s a lot of appreciation on their end that we’re heading out on the road risking our lives to make sure that they get what they need to do what they do.”
The primary responsibilities of the Mobile Support Equipment Operator are:
- Operate buses, automobiles, trucks and tractor-trailers;
- Operate specialized mobile equipment such as fuelling tankers, snowplows, tractors and all-terrain vehicles;
- Receive, load, secure and unload materiel and equipment transported by road;
- Provide transportation support for combat and field operations;
- Maintain equipment in serviceable condition by cleaning, inspecting and correcting minor faults;
- Prepare dispatch schedules and coordinate user requirements for vehicles and equipment;
- Prepare and maintain job-related forms, records and reports.