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Military Life: Being a Non-Combat Trade in a Combat Unit

Updated on December 22, 2014

When I joined Canada's military, I hadn't even wanted to be in the army. My father had been in the navy when he was my age and it was all I had grown up hearing about, so naturally, I first applied to be an officer in the regular force navy. Due to high competition rates, I did not make it in and under the advice of the recruiter, I decided to join my local reserve unit. Over two and a half years later, here I still am. My trade: Resource Management Support Clerk. Basically I deal with all the administrative and financial obligations. It's primarily a desk job. My unit though? A Highland infantry unit. They're the first ones on the battlefield – and wear kilts no less (in dress uniform at least; thank you to Canada's large Scottish heritage).

As you can imagine, there is a very huge difference between an infanteer and a clerk. The only common thing is we both wear green and share the same basic training course. Beyond that? They are two entirely different worlds. My only mandatory combat training is basic and later a leadership course if I wish to proceed past the rank of corporal. I am only required to shoot live rounds once a year to qualify on our main service rifle. However, despite this, I get quite the insight into the infantry world. My boyfriend is an infanteer, and some of my closest friends are infanteers in our company. I hear a lot and have access to lots of insider knowledge if I need it. Plus, I enjoy shooting, I enjoy getting out in the field whenever I can.

Here are a few points to give an idea of what my job is like.

  1. I get jealous when the troops are out in the field shooting stuff and blowing stuff up and I'm sitting in front of my computer guzzling coffee to try to stay awake.

  2. However, there are times, say when it is minus twenty and they're out sleeping in tents freezing their asses off and feeling completely miserable, that I'm glad I'm in a warm office buried in paperwork.

  3. They live and breathe weapons, so I almost always feel sub-par when I'm fumbling through the refresher of my weapons drills on my yearly live shoot.

  4. However, I feel I blend in much better when I have an assault rifle in hand and I'm wearing my helmet and tac vest.

  5. I volunteer whenever I can for opportunities to be in the field (cause I don't do it all that often) and although I know I may hate my life at some point, I will always come out having had fun doing something I don't do everyday.

  6. Due to such eagerness and alright performance, I have earned the nickname of being a “combat clerk”, although I still receive surprised looks when members of my unit see me out and about with the infanteers.

  7. Also, the majority of the other clerks look at me as if I have two-heads when my hand shoots up when I volunteer to play enemy force. I guess I'm a rare breed.

  8. There is a whole range of clerk-speak that often baffles the infanteers, and there is the collection of their own terminology, mainly acronyms – the army has no shortage of those – that can leave me scratching my head. This results in a lot of dumbing-down or mini-learning sessions which can be both beneficial and annoying at times. There are even acronyms that are made up of the same letters but have different meanings! ROE, for example. For clerks, it means record of employment. For combat trades, it means rules of engagement. Confusing, I know!

  9. If I am in a situation where I'm not completely sure how to do something that is not clerk related, I (usually) won't get yelled at because everyone knows I don't do it every day. I'll usually be re-taught nicely.

  10. Thus, when someone comes to me at the counter and is not sure how to write a memo, I'll be more than happy to help them, because I realize it is something they don't do everyday.

  11. I spend as much time with the guys (and girls) as possible, because despite the division in trades I don't want there to be a division in camaraderie. I always stick around after work for a beer or two in the mess.

    My mentality for my attitude is this: I joined the army. Whether or not my job is a desk job or not, I'm still expected to be a soldier first. I enjoy shooting, being in the field, learning unique skills that the army has to offer. If I didn't, I would have worked a civvy office job someplace instead.


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