IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
CAPTAIN RYAN TELFER: I am Captain Ryan Telfer from Espinola, Ontario, an Artillery Officer currently serving with the 2nd Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Petawawa, Ontario.
LIEUTENANT BRANDON McCOOL: And I’m Lieutenant Brandon McCool from Montreal, Quebec, an Artillery Officer with the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Shilo, Manitoba.
TELFER: Artillery officers, we are the experts in fire support. Many armoured and infantry commanders won’t go anywhere without their artillery support. Artillery can save friendly lives by suppressing enemies while friendlies move, by neutralizing targets while friendlies approach for their own attack.
McCOOL: In a battlefied context, artillery is the one that gets everybody’s heads down, lets the infantry advance, lets the armoured advance. Junior officer, here you go – you’re in charge, you’re basically the one that’s helping the battle advance.
McCOOL: Our toolbox includes some of the more technologically advanced equipment the army has to offer, including tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; the Halo 2 sound-ranging sensor system; weapon-locating radar that can track an incoming bullet in flight to protect our troops and target where it came from; and our go-to gun, the M-Triple-Seven howitzer, devastatingly accurate at a range of forty kilometers. This job is complex, it’s challenging, and it can get LOUD.
McCOOL: Well, if you like to fire big cannons, I mean, it’s the only place you can do it.
McCOOL: You’ll find us on the gunline with today’s most accurate and powerful satellite-guided heavy weapons… in Forward Observation parties with our ground troops in search of the enemy… collecting and interpreting digital data from unmanned aircraft, deployed microphones and high-tech radar… calling in game-changing fighter-jet and helicopter support… defending against threats from the sky… and coordinating a fluid, three-dimensional battlespace.
McCOOL: You kinda see everything, because in the command post, you have the battle map, you know exactly what’s going on. They’re pushing information to you, that sort of thing. And you’re kind of the eyes on the ground as well, so you’re the first person that sends reports up to the battery command and which goes to Brigade headquarters, and usually Colonels and above are listening to what you’re saying. So it’s kind of neat to have that capability. The most challenging part is pretty much the same thing as the most fun part – you’re doing things that you haven’t done before, they’re putting you into a position where you’re definitely out of your comfort zone. You start using your training and it actually starts forming a decent plan. And when you get to see it all come together, you realise like “Wow, I just did that”. And it actually worked out.
MODULE 2 – What’s cool about the job
TELFER: The coolest part of my job is the sheer amount of firepower we can bring in with artillery, with air strikes, and directing those assets wherever we need. I found in civilian life, a lot of people accepted the status quo and said “good enough” far too often. In the Army, “good enough” is never good enough. You always want to strive to ensure that you’re doing the best job possible.
McCOOL: It’s pretty cliché, but it’s being with the guys. You make friends for life, I mean, there’s not too many people out there, in these training conditions, that have been in these circumstances or have done these things together. And it’s just having that innate sense of trust, because you don’t earn that on civvy street, as we call it. It’s just hard to find and pretty much, the military, with the brotherhood, is the only place you can get it.
MODULE 3 – Trade-Specific Training
McCOOL: To succeed as an Artillery Officer, you’ll need to be a reliable leader, technically competent, and – most important of all – a good communicator. After your Basic Officer Training, you’ll report to the Combat Training Centre at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.
McCOOL: Your training at Gagetown will be divided into three phases. You’ll start at the Infantry School with a phase that all Army officers go through. Then it’s on to the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School for two additional phases of training. You’ll start with basic Artillery skills – how to accurately direct and fire the howitzers over many kilometres, and how to lead a team of gunners to protect our troops and devastate the other side.
McCOOL: In your final phase of training, you’ll learn how to select and prepare a gun position and how to move a gun battery on the battlefield, to bring the guns into action quickly. You’ll also begin to learn about the various radar, sound-ranging systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs used by the Artillery for Surveillance and Target Acquisition.
MODULE 4 – Your First Posting
McCOOL: When you complete your courses at Gagetown, you’ll be assigned to one of the units of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. You may start out as a troop commander, leading a team of about thirty gunners working on the guns. Or you could be put in charge of a Surveillance and Target Acquisition Troop, with 25 gunners manning radar, acoustic weapon-locating systems or UAVs.
McCOOL: From day 1, I showed up, I was in charge of just over 40 troops. From day 1. A new lieutenant to the regiment, here you go. These are your troops. So, brand new to the regiment, first time out in the field with the regiment, I’m the guy calling the fire. That means I’m getting orders from the Forward Observers but at the same time, I’m the guy sending the orders to the guns.
McCOOL: As your career progresses, you’ll undergo specialized training to become a Forward Observation Officer and may also become a Forward Air Controller, out on the front lines with the Infantry and the Armour, coordinating the Artillery and fast air support they need to get their job done.
TELFER: As soon as I know where an enemy is located, we call in the fire mission. If I have eyes on, I can then direct that artillery fire and ensure them hitting the target. If I don’t have eyes on, infantry or armoured on the scene can relay information to me, allow me to correct fire. So we just ensure that the maximum amount of effects are being directed onto the target.
McCOOL: You could also specialize in Airspace Coordination, providing aircraft the three-dimensional information they need to be able to fly safely and effectively in the battlespace.
MODULE 5 – Testimonials
TELFER: For me personally, controlling a jet who’s dropping a 2000-pound bomb on a target, sometimes you’ll have an aircraft coming in, you’ll have 10 seconds to ensure that he’s on the proper target. So that intensity and that speed… the most exciting task that I’ve done to date.
McCOOL: It really is being outside, getting the opportunity to travel. It’s also knowing that you’re helping somebody, like, whether it’s combat or just domestic operations – for example we were involved with the Portage La Prairie floods here in Manitoba. It was actually exciting to get on the wall and know that you’re actually doing something that’s helping people. You know you’re making a difference at the end of the day, so you’re not really just showing up to work and trying to make money. You’re actually doing something you enjoy and you’re doing something that’s actually worthwhile for the community.
TELFER: I always took great pride in being Canadian and seeing the contributions that the Canadian military made worldwide. I wanted to be part of it.
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES