What is your job title and rank? What do you do at your job?
My job title at the present time is I/C SPSS at 1CER, which translates to In-Charge of Spare Parts Supply Section at 1 Combat Engineer Regiment. My rank is Master Corporal and that means I look after all the parts required to fix all the vehicles in my unit. The mechanics come to see my staff and I to get the parts to fix the vehicles. It is much like being at Canadian Tire [Canadian Tire is a store that sells parts to fix almost anything.]. Presently, I am overseas on the island of Diego Garcia representing my unit in trying to make sure everything we took to Afghanistan comes back to my unit.
Where did you grow up and what were some of your favorite activities as a child?
I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) in 1964. My father was in the Air Force and we never stayed in one place more than 4 years. Mostly, I have lived in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and call that my home. I also spent time in Greenwood, Nova Scotia and Summerside, Prince Edward Island. We did a lot of outdoor activities because there were no computers to play with. We would make our own fun with our toys. Mostly swimming and hockey took our time; and playing cowboys and Indians or red rover.
What were your childhood dreams?
I think every kid wanted to play in the National Hockey League when they were growing up. I went as far as I could with hockey and had a ton of fun. I was fortunate to play against a Czech team and go to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia to play in a high school championship.
When did you join Scouts? What are some of the best things you have done with Scouts?
I joined at a late year in my life, and only did one year before joining Ventures. The best camp I was on with them was cross-country skiing survival in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. I then joined scouts as a leader when my son was five, and in Beavers. There is no one camp that sticks out because I enjoyed them all and each one has different high points. My greatest highlight was when I was in Kosovo in 1999 where I helped set up a Scout group along with other scout leaders in that region. It was the first time for such a group.
Why did you decide to join the Canadian Armed Forces?
Well it was the order of the judge - Military or jail. They did that in those days. Just kidding, I was tired of what was in my life and was looking for a job that had lots of challenges. As a matter of fact, I am away on a mission at this moment and have some down time to complete this study.
When did you leave for Afghanistan? What are you doing there? When do you expect to return home?
Presently I am on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean at a place called Diego Garcia. It is what we call a staging base where all of the supplies and toys are flown. Then we check them over and prepare them for shipping back to Canada. There are about 85 of us on this special assignment. My return date is scheduled around the first week of September or sooner. [Tony arrived back at home on 15 August 2002.]
What does it take to join the military?
You must pass a series of tests to evaluate your job capability. Once you complete the tests, the recruiter can see what job you are best suited for. Most times they offer you a job in whatever field needs the most people. The main thing is to get your foot in the door, and once in, you can change jobs if you don't like what you are doing. You must also be physically fit. Depending on what trade you pick depends on your level of fitness required.
What different positions have you had in the military?
When I first joined the army, I was a Field Engineer. The main jobs were de-mining, water purification and bridge building to name a few. When I say bridge building I don't mean design, actual hands-on pick up two to three hundred pounds of bridge pieces with your co-workers and build a bridge. It was like a big Meccano set. It all fit together one way. Most times we did that at night and it usually rained. We worked hard and played even harder, but that kind of life takes its toll on one's mind, body and family.
I then pursued the job of being a Combat Diver with the Engineers. One day after a training dive I came to the surface and was paralyzed on one side. After over a year in the hospital, it was decided by the doctors that I had Multiple Sclerosis and that my Engineer/Diving career was over.
This is when I moved into the support position as a Supply Technician. I have been there ever since. I have seen the world with the Supply Group. From sailing on the HCMS Halifax to being deployed with the army overseas where I am currently positioned. Being with the navy was enjoyable but it meant spending long trips with a new ship to show it off. During my two and a half years onboard, I figured out I was gone two of those years.
What do you do at your job when you are away on a mission?
My job varies from mission to mission, however it can be summed up as looking after the army's toys. When we deploy troops on a mission we have to make sure there are enough supplies like bullets, food, water, and things for everyday living.
What do you do at your job when you are not on a mission, but stationed at home?
When I am home, it is much the same. My unit is the most tasked unit in all of Edmonton. The last time we were together as a unit only lasted a month before we had to separate again. Because the engineers are specialized, there are soldiers gone for every mission from this unit. When we are not preparing for a mission we are busy getting ready for field exercises where we train for an upcoming mission. It's a non-stop organization.
What is the most important thing that you have learned from being in the military?
The most important thing I learn from being in the military is how to be a better person. You learn to be more compassionate and respectful of the different people in the world, their thoughts and ways. I have seen things that most Canadians will never see and hope they never do. The world can be a scary place if you're not careful. It has given me the skill to cope and deal with adversity in my life. Also there are courses that you cannot get anywhere but the army. Such as a combat diver, or tank driver or jumping out of planes with large packs strapped to your back.
What different places has the military brought you to?
I have been all over the world with the military. Because of my trade, Supply Technician, I have been posted to Air, Army and even naval bases. I have been to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Spain, France and a number of other places. I have moved my family from one coast of Canada to the other and back again. I think they are growing tired of moving so I think this is going to be my last stop. I would have to say that the East coast (of Canada) was the best place to live. But after all that is my home.
Is going on a mission challenging, both mentally and physically? How do you and your family deal with you going away for long periods of time for a mission?
You have to be prepared for what you are going into. Most times I look at it as if I am in an interactive movie. If you let the things you see and do bother you then you will lose your mind. I find that if you have a good home front, and the family can accept that you will be away, it puts your mind at ease. My wife is the greatest support person I have. Without her, it would be unbearable. There are certain things you don't tell your family because you don't want them to worry, and other times you just keep it inside you. As far as my family coping, I don't really know. I can't speak for them but they seem to do ok. Every time I come back there is a readjusting period where we have to get to know one another again.
Tell me a little bit about your trip to Kosovo. What were you doing there? What made you decide to start a Scout Troop?
When I went to Kosovo it was for a peace-making mission. The idea was to try to bring order back to the Albanians after being forced from their homes and to get them back where they belonged. The idea of a scout troop was to try to give all the kids that were hanging outside of the camp some direction and maybe show then how to have fun.
What was the Kosovo Scout Troop like? Is it the same as Scouting in Canada? Is it true that the kids did not know how to play in a playground?
The scouts in Kosovo were kind of in a shell. They weren't sure if they should trust us or not. But we tried to break through with fun and games. After awhile they turned out to be quite amazing. When we are teaching them knots, most kids in Canada take the rope home to practice and get sidetracked by TV, Nintendo or some other activity. But these kids had none of that and would practice with the rope for hours on end. They mastered many of the knots in record time. As far as the playground went, it was built at the school near where most of these kids lived and once it was built, we (the soldiers) had to get on to show them how to use most of the equipment such as the teeter-totter. Or even the tire swing.
What do you think is the most valuable lesson for children to learn?
I think respect of one another is very important. If the kids learn this and carry it with them then perhaps the world would be a better place. To show compassion for one another and to take care of our environment because there is only one earth and we must keep it clean and safe for all creatures big or small, human or animal.
Who did you look up to as a child? Who gave you inspiration throughout your childhood?
When I was growing up, I looked up to both of my grandfathers. One of them passed away when I was young and it left an empty spot. He was good with his hands and taught me about hard work. He was a big man much like myself. My other grandfather taught me respect. I was taught how to respect people and treat women properly. To this day, my wife and kids know which side of the road to be on when we are out walking. "The gentleman must be closest to the traffic as to protect the women and children". He had also served in the air force during the WWII as a bomber and was an inspiration to me. He died two weeks before I graduated from basic training and has never seen me in my uniform. And I can't forget my dad. Even though he told me how good it was in the air force, I still joined the army. He has always been my biggest fan.
It takes a lot of mental and physical strength to succeed in a military career.
What advice do you have for children who would like to join the military?
Stay in school, be as smart as you can and take one day at a time. Do not sweat the small stuff cause the next day is going to get better.
I hope this helped to answer your questions and remember to stay in school, respect one another, and learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others.
- 16 August 2002
24 August 2002
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