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Army

Signal Operator

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time, Part Time


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Overview

Signal Operators provide reliable wired and wireless communications and information systems using leading edge voice and data systems. They are a part of a larger team that provides Army units and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with communications and information services throughout Canada and around the world.

Signal Operators expertly install, remove, troubleshoot, and operate leading edge communications and information systems technology such as: 

  • Wired and Wireless communications and information systems
  • Radio, satellite, and microwave broadband systems
  • Fibre optic and copper wire broadband technology
  • Voice and data systems

Work environment

Signal Operators experience the unique adventures and challenges that come with working outdoors, in military vehicles, and temporary shelters (e.g. tents).  Signal Operators work across the country on Army bases and around the world wherever the CAF has a footprint.

Career Overview

Transcript

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: I’m Master Corporal Cameron Bellegarde from Regina, Saskatchewan. I’m a Signal Operator currently posted to the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario.

Signal Operators provide mission-critical services for every operation in the Canadian Army. They deliver the services used to communicate within the mission area, as well as the systems that are used for emergency evacuations. Every task is a ‘no-fail’ job, and Signal Operators are relied upon to create precise communication networks to keep the mission in sync.

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: Commanders need to know exactly what’s happening when it’s happening, where people are on the map. They make their decisions based on the communications that are coming into a headquarters, and we are at the centre of that. It’s the ability of the commanders to get what they need to get across to the entire battlespace or theatre of operation. We need to push out decisions and orders over the airwaves at any given moment.

Signal Operators can be assigned to work with the infantry, the armoured corps, the artillery, special operations, or other units. Signal Operators use some of the most modern communications gear in the world: digital high-frequency radios, portable transmitters, satellite systems and computer networks. They piece together large antennas to establish radio voice and data communications involving complex technical knowledge and know-how.

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: So we use a wide range of equipment, from short-range radios to long-range, high-frequency radios, as well as tactical satellite systems for long-range communications — and this can include passing both voice and data traffic.

These communication systems are used to communicate throughout the mission area, between ground stations, and from ground to air.

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: A lot of our equipment is vehicle-mounted, and so, many times you’re mobile and you’re communicating from a mobile Command Post in the back of a vehicle.

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: My favourite thing about being a Signal Operator is working in a Command Post-type environment, where there is so much activity happening all around you and you’re kind of at the centre of it all. You’re receiving information that a lot of people aren’t privy to. And I think that’s one of the neatest things about being a Signal Operator. Being in the room with the commanders, knowing where elements are on the map, and having an understanding of the entire tactical situation.

Upon completion of their primary occupation training, Signal Operators are normally posted to a unit in

one of three brigades across Canada or to the Joint Signal Regiment in Kingston, where their training will continue on-the-job.

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: If a Private finds themself at the Joint Signal Regiment, they could end up posted on a DART mission or a theatre activation team. They’ll be responsible for setting up the communications infrastructure at the start of a mission, which will allow commanders to have command and control.

Reservists fulfill the same role in 23 different Army Reserve Signal units across the country. Signal Operators will train for high readiness with their brigade and can expect to be deployed overseas every two to three years. Spending time in the field and on exercise are regular parts of the work they do, typically a few months out of the year.

People who are well suited to this career path are curious, love technology, and have a willingness to learn new things.

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: There’s a lot of technical knowledge that comes into play and you pick up various things throughout your career, starting as a Private and working your way up, and eventually it just builds and you’re able to call upon different experiences to make things work when tricky situations arise.

MASTER CORPORAL CAMERON BELLEGARDE: I’ve loved every day that I’ve been in the Army. I plan on staying in for a full career, I’m going to do 25 years. No day is ever the same. I work with great people and every day is a new adventure. You learn a lot, you get great opportunities and it’s a whole different aspect to the Army but I think a very exciting one.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Telecommunications Operator and Manager
  • Information Systems Analyst
  • Electronic Engineering Technician/Technologist
  • Line Installer-Repairer Technician

Training

The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Forces physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

After Basic Training, Army recruits go to a Military Training Centre for the Basic Military Qualification – Land Course for approximately one month, which covers the following topics:

  • Army physical fitness
  • Dismounted offensive and defensive operations
  • Reconnaissance patrolling
  • Individual field craft

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Signal Operators attend the Canadian Forces School of Communication and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario. Training takes approximately 19 weeks and teaches the following basic skills and knowledge:

  • Communications Security policies and procedures
  • Tactical line communications systems
  • Portable power generating systems
  • VHF and HF radio communications systems
  • Satellite communications systems
  • Service desk analyst

Signal Operators may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Cryptographic equipment
  • Advanced satellite communications systems
  • Line-of-sight microwave communications systems
  • Instructional Techniques

As they progress in their career, Signal Operators who demonstrate the required ability and potential may be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Advanced military vehicle operation (driver training)
  • Advanced telecommunications systems
  • Instructional Design
  • Leadership and management

Entry plans

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondaire IV in Quebec. Foreign education may be accepted.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at a military unit in their community and at military bases within the region where they live. Reservists may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training and are not required to move. They can, however, volunteer to move and can also volunteer for deployment opportunities within or outside Canada.

Reserve Signal Operators serve with the Canadian Army, providing fast, reliable, wired and wireless communications infrastructure to military units for training and operations. When employed on a part-time or term basis, they usually serve at a Canadian Army Reserve unit in their local community.

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training in their home unit to ensure they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic military training, arrangements will be made for occupational training. Signal Operator training takes 19 weeks and is conducted at a regional training center or the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario. The 19 weeks of training may be divided into modules in order to facilitate attendance by those with civilian jobs or studying full time.

Reserve Force Signal Operators usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends. They may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending what type of work is needed. Most Signal Operators work in both field and garrison (office) environments, and may be required to drive military vehicles. They are paid 92.8 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a benefits package, and contribute to a pension plan.