By Jim Scott
THERE WAS NEVER any doubt in Gerry Fraser’s mind. He would don a uniform and serve his country. The question may be: Is he ever going to hang it up?
“I always wanted to be in the military,” he said. “I wore a sergeant’s military dress shirt for my kindergarten picture.”
Gerry, born in Burlington ON in 1972, moved to nearby Hamilton for high school. With graduation approaching, he was job-hunting when an opportunity presented itself.
“I joined the CF on March 14th 1991. After graduating in February, I was out looking for work when I passed by a Recruiting office,” he says. “ I wrote the aptitude test, and they gave me a free lunch.”
“Two weeks later I was in Cornwallis [Nova Scotia].” If transitioning from a teenage civilian to a soldier of the Queen ever presented Gerry with second thoughts, they don’t appear in his record. He says that in addition to two domestic operations, he deployed on seven overseas tours: Croatia in 1992-93 with 3rd Battalion, Bosnia in 1997 and 2000 with Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), Kandahar in 2002 and 2008, and Kabul, Afghanistan in 2004, and
His military history alone describes a career filled with transitions, and a man who welcomes new challenges.
“While overseas in Croatia, there was a call-out for any personnel wishing to conduct the ‘jump course.’ At the time, I had no clue what a jump course was other than you jumped out of planes.”
Upon completing the jump course, Gerry was quickly posted to Petawawa, ON to serve with the Canadian Airborne Regiment. “What a culture shock it was going from Victoria, BC to Petawawa! It turned out to be the best, and most rewarding part of my military career,” he said.
That career lasted an impressive quarter-century. However, there inevitably comes a time to make the next move in life.
“I wanted to settle down and raise my family. So, after 25 years, nearly to-the-day, I retired.”
“I was rolling into the Reserves when I interviewed for the Account Manager position with Commissionaires Hamilton Division,” he said. It was a familiar feeling of being at the right place at the right time. However this time he was on the other end of an impressive military career. He started working for Commissionaires on March 16th 2016.
The first days of any new job are fraught with excitement, anticipation and trepidation. For military personnel, the civilian world offers much yet often lacks one key ingredient—the camaraderie found among sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen. Gerry’s solution, is to keep a toe in both ponds.
“The transition was difficult, but Commissionaires has been excellent. They just recently approved an LOA, (leave of absence), so I can deploy to Lebanon for five months.”
Gerry says his “senior leadership courses and operational experience prepared me for management,” and his role with Commissionaires is an extension of his military training.
He points out that Commissionaires has a military culture, and their social mandate to employ veteran personnel creates a family environment with a recognizable ‘esprit.’
“There is a common ground among the veterans in our Division that boils down to a sense pride from serving our country,” he said. “Working alongside those individuals, and exchanging one uniform for another, together, significantly helps with the transition to civilian life.”
Gerry enthusiastically endorses Commissionaires as a workplace for those looking to transition out of the CAF.
“The positions offer flexible hours, and the work is both rewarding and challenging at the same time. For pensioners, it’s helpful as you can use the job to top up your income, while staying active.”
Gerry says he misses the Army and its camaraderie “a lot.” However, given his Reserve activities and opportunities with Commissionaires, it doesn’t look like he’s missing much.