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Life on an Army training course
In the middle of the night, during the height of a thunderstorm, I can vividly remember my fellow course-mate and good friend telling me “Poncho, whatever you do, PLEASE don’t transmit until I’m done fixing the antenna.” Genuine concern suddenly turned into sleep-deprived manic laughter as we pictured his charred body punching through down the canvass roof after vaulting 20 feet in the air. This moment happened during our field training exercise (FTX), the final test of our accumulated knowledge, where sleeping would’ve been something we dreamed about having, if we were allowed to sleep. The equipment had to be fixed and stay operational, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions.
Kingston, Ontario, as the site of the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics (CFSCE), is a temporary home to many future Technicians and Operators learning the tools of their trades. CFB Kingston, a home run’s distance from Lake Ontario, is where the Land Communications and Information Systems Technician (LCIS Tech) apprentice course 0086 is finally drawing to a close. The course is 87 full training days, and the students are kept busy with inspections, physical training, and the constant communication and teamwork required to succeed in any Canadian Forces training course.
We entered the venerable Wallis building, walked past the rows of graduation photos displaying the Techs who came and went before us, armed only with our prerequisite courses to begin the apprentice training with a small degree of proficiency. We’ve proven something by making it this far. We’ve all earned the privilege of being treated more like adults. That is to say, we’ve been given enough rope to hang ourselves with. We were even fortunate enough to be shown the rope.
The real meat of LCIS training happens on the various electronics equipment, both in and out of the classroom. The theoretical textbook lessons, in combination with the hands-on training, give a wide range of learning opportunities to properly operate and maintain the expensive hardware safely and effectively.
Sleep deprivation can have some interesting effects such as hallucinated sights or sounds, so there was an certain level of challenge in recognizing the playing of light from an entire colony of bunnies, or a cloud of mosquitoes sounding like long-range bombers, or realizing that it really IS a deer staring at you from 15 feet away with a mixture of pity and ridicule.
The entire exercise was spent being wet. Wet with sweat from setting up the camp, wet from the following three days of an almost constant deluge of rain, and finally wet behind the ears in terms of what it makes to be a solid, reliable technician in the field. We’ve learned it requires an iron resolve to stay awake, organized, and focused.
Our ability to remain alert was put to the ultimate test when we were ordered to keep watch over the golf course, at the hole closest to our camp. Deep within the rough, we vigilantly reported the movements of golfers at the tee, fairway and green. While we radioed-in on the golfers, we observed a directly proportional relationship between the number of strokes and the number of expletives.
Mother Nature decided to up the ante in a significant way during the week. We were forced to reinforce the CP in response to tornado warnings, and dig a series of trenches to divert the rapidly pooling water and prevent flooding within the tents and CP. Even with all the muck and rain, what ended up dampening our morale the most were the relentless, ever-present clouds of mosquitoes. The insect repellent tended to sweat off or get washed away too quickly, and the smokers on course could only produce a certain level of second-hand smoke to temporarily keep the hungry hordes at bay. We started keeping a mosquito kill-count but quickly lost track.
All in all, the exercise was an incredible learning experience. A combination of trade training mixed with soldier skills training that none of us will soon forget. It is critically important to pass the torch of military excellence at the soldier’s level, and a vitally important aspect of training is the quality of the instruction. As experienced veterans, each instructor has an invaluable wealth of knowledge, practical experience and attitude to be passed on to the next generation of LCIS Techs.
It is equally important that we, the students, are studious, receptive and attentive. Some days we march back to the barracks with a full brain, feeling overwhelmed by a particularly full day’s worth of education but in the end we’re all extremely aware that failure is not an option. What we’ve learned here WILL save lives overseas by keeping our critically important lines of communication open, functional, and serviceable in whatever conditions lie ahead for each of us. Just like it helped our poor top candidate test the antennae without doing the funky fried chicken while earning his jump wings.
Written by Pte Ben "Poncho" Rincover, July 2010.
Representing LCIS Course 0086
==EDITOR'S NOTE BY GIJAY== In this article I am the one fixing the antennae and the top candidate.