IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
FARRELL: When our Canadian Forces call for shells, missiles, bullets, and high explosives, we’re the experts who know what makes them tick.
GRAVELLE: We’re Ammunition Technicians – we stock the depots, issue the munitions to our troops, do technical inspections of everything in the arsenal, and travel wherever the Forces go – right up to the forward bases of the battlespace.
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
FARRELL: I’m Master Corporal Rob Farrell from Green Mountain, New Brunswick – I’m an Ammunition Technician currently attached to the National Support Element here in CFB Petawawa.
GRAVELLE: And I’m Corporal Audrey Gravelle from St-Bruno, Quebec – I’m an Ammunition Technician currently posted to Gagetown, New Brunswick.
FARRELL: This is my eighth year as an Ammo Tech – it’s a demanding, highly rewarding trade that has taken me across Canada and on deployment overseas, working in every kind of situation from the warehouse to the war zone.
GRAVELLE: Ammo Techs are responsible for the safety of the ammo, issuing, shipping, and eventually disposing of every kind of ammunition that the Forces use.
FARRELL: You do everything from inspecting, receiving ammunition, warehousing ammunition, and then you get into the field portion where you could be doing disposal of surplus and obsolete ammunition, disposal of stray ammunition. We also cover portions of the IED house, which is improvised explosive devices. We do destruction of those.
GRAVELLE: It’s dangerous, so you have to make sure that you know what you’re dealing with and that you transport them the safe way. And you also have to make sure that the user units and the users know about the dangers associated with what they’re using.
FARRELL: There aren’t a lot of Ammo Techs in the Forces. A small group means big responsibilities, a sharp learning curve, and accelerated chances for promotion – about ten per cent faster than the normal rate in the Forces.
GRAVELLE: When I was searching for a trade, one thing I noticed was that hardly any Ammo techs were women – that was a real challenge that made me want to succeed even more.
I thought I could push myself, go outside my comfort limits and do something exciting and different.
The daily work of an Ammo Tech is incredibly varied. On exercises here in Canada, we’re responsible for safety-checking and issuing munitions, keeping track of what’s used, and taking back and storing what isn’t fired – when the exercise is over, we go out and clear the range of unexploded shells and missiles. You have to know every kind of munition, how it looks, how it sounds, and the dangers in dealing with them.
FARRELL: Over in Afghanistan, our job is very similar to what it is here in Canada. You have to be very flexible, things happen a lot faster there. You have to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. So our goal while we’re there is to ensure that we have all the correct munitions, that they’re functioning properly, that they’re in good shape, that they’re not beaten, battered, dropped, so that when they are needed, they will work.
GRAVELLE: If this sounds exciting and you’re thinking of becoming an Ammunition Technician, you’re looking at an long, intense course of classroom instruction and hands-on apprenticeship.
FARRELL: You’ll start with your basic military training, because Ammo Techs are soldiers first – and soldiers always.
GRAVELLE: Then comes a six-month course at the School of Administration and Logistics at Borden, Ontario. And that’s only the beginning.
FARRELL: After Borden, you’re looking at another 6 to 8 months of apprenticeship at an ammunition facility on one of our Canadian Forces bases.
When you first get posted to your second-line facility after you’ve done your course, they want to put you for a couple of months in each different section so you’ll start out always supervised, working in warehouse, or you could start out in receipts & issues, you could start out in the office and they like to keep rotating you through so that you have a chance to touch on each and every aspect.
GRAVELLE: As you gain experience, you’ll have a chance for advanced training in fields ranging from the disposal of small arms ammo to the disposal of chemical and biological weapons, all the way to Improvised Explosives Disposal operations.
I get to do a lot of different things. I got to do an Explosives Ordnance Disposal course down in Florida for 6 months over the winter; I went to Suffield, Alberta last year for an ADATS shoot; this year I’m here training for a tour to Afghanistan. So that’s what I like the most, it’s the travelling.
FARRELL: If you want to join us, you’re going to need a cool head, good hands and steady nerves – but I think you’ll love being an Ammo Tech as much as I do.
The most fun part of the job would have to be going out to the range to do demolition. And we have done some large ones, that you can see the shockwave bubble come off the explosion and you can almost feel it travel right through your body.
GRAVELLE: We have a really good team, we’re a really good crew, everybody’s really nice, we get along great. You get to do something different every day. You get to blow stuff up!
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES