By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
Oromocto, New Brunswick — Canadian Army (CA) Reserve Force members may only serve part-time, but officers from one of the Army’s busiest centres say their help is both very much needed and highly valued.
5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown, located in Oromocto, New Brunswick, is home to both 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR) and 4th Artillery Regiment (General Support), RCA (4 Regt (GS)).
While other CA units enter a state of high readiness every three years, following two years of individual and collective training to prepare, these two are tasked with roles that are unique in the CA as a whole. As a result, there is high demand on members to support exercises and operations across the country and around the globe, so they must stay constantly at the ready.
They and other CA ‘enabler’ units – which perform in-demand supportive functions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – were recently consolidated at 5th Canadian Division, where they will all report to the newly-formed Canadian Combat Support Brigade (CCSB).
Captain Joseph Bennett, 4 ESR’s Operations Officer, says this requirement for a constant state of readiness presents considerable challenges that Reservists help overcome.
“We provide the bulk of the leadership, the planning, and the soldiers to react to any type of event in Atlantic Canada,” he explained. “We frequently have people who are supporting tasks or going on courses all across the country, so when we’re ordered to deploy, it can be a challenge to ensure we have the resources we need. This is where Reservists can come into play - to fill those gaps.”
In 2017 alone, Capt Bennett added, 4 ESR assisted provincial officials after ice storms struck northeast New Brunswick, were on standby to respond to any serious incidents in the region on Canada Day, and stood ready to respond to flooding in Quebec.
“There were engineers supporting that from Quebec,” he said. “However it seemed the scope might grow so we had a troop of Reservists come to be with us. We never ended up deploying to Quebec but we had about 25 to 30 Reservists here for about a week doing our training, helping us get our kit ready, and being ready to react and provide more assistance if it was needed.”
Captain Leah Sullivan is Operations Officer for 5 CDSB’s Technical Services Branch, which is charged with providing logistical support to the base’s units and training schools. Supporting high readiness units means Tech Services feel many of the same pressures.
Also, those demands have grown further still in the last year as 5 CDSB has taken on the additional responsibility of supplying both Regular and Reserve Force activities right across Atlantic Canada and not just on the base itself.
“The job is getting bigger but we aren’t getting more positions in order to deal with it,” said Capt Sullivan. “Right now we’re analyzing how much can we do with what we’ve got and what we need to do in order to meet the demand.”
From the Tech Services perspective, she added, Reservists provide valuable, direct support on the base during the summer.
“The summertime period is really the heaviest period for training through the schools and so we usually ask for Reserve augmentation during that time to fill in some gaps.”
Beyond that, Capt Sullivan said she anticipates the Army’s ongoing Strengthening the Army Reserve (StAR) effort, which is expanding the number of mission tasks available to Reservists, will have a positive effect.
This includes training in long-distance trucking. Though the impact of this will be less direct, Capt Sullivan noted, it will help ease the burden.
“Any time someone needs tractor trailer support right now, they either need to contract it or come to us,” she explained. “Whereas if they have that capability for themselves, that alleviates tasks that we would otherwise action. That’s the Reserve Force helping themselves.”
Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada’s Defence Policy includes measures to ensure the Reserve Forces are able to deliver full-time capabilities through part-time service. Those measures include adding 1,500 new personnel and more closely integrating the Regular and Reserve Forces by expanding the mission tasks carried out by Reservists.