MODULE 1 – Overview of the trade
SERGEANT ERICA OLIVER: I’m Sergeant Erica Oliver from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m a Combat Engineer presently posted at CFB Gagetown at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering.
SAPPER CHRISTOPHER ROWAN: And I’m Sapper Chris Rowan from Oakville, Ontario, and I’m a Combat Engineer with 2 Combat Engineering Regiment in Petawawa, Ontario.
ROWAN: The Combat Engineers are responsible for making sure everybody else can move and fight on the battlefield. Without the engineers, nobody moves, nobody does anything. You know, if you need to cross a river or a gap, the engineers have bridges. If you need to get through a minefield, we’re the guys that clear it. If you need something blown up and get it out of the way, they’re gonna call us and we’re gonna do that for you.
OLIVER: Our purpose is to make sure the infantry can do their job. So it’s a very tight relationship that we especially have with the infantry.
ROWAN: We do breaching, we’ve got heavy equipment operators, EOD operators…
OLIVER: You can be a paratrooper, a jumper, you can be a combat diver, you can be a mountain ops-- I’m mountain ops qualified, urban ops, close quarter combat instructor, you know, jump out of helicopters, you name it. It’s possible for a combat engineer.
ROWAN: Being able to blow things up is something that everybody wants to do. We blew up an airfield the other day, which is a perfect example – the infantry went in and cleared the enemies out of there, we went in and destroyed the airfield for them. So we all work together and we get the job done together.
ROWAN: When you think about places like Afghanistan, the engineers are the first ones in. The infantry needs a place to live and fight from. So we go in and we build the FOBs, the Forward Operating Bases, for them. Also when the infantry moves, we’re always the first ones on the ground, in front of them clearing the way for IEDs and mines.
OLIVER: Whether you join the Regular Force, or you’re looking for a part-time job as a Reserve Engineer, you’ll find that Combat Engineers have a major role to play here in Canada as well as in the battlespace.
OLIVER: I participated in the ice storm, you know, the floods - you see people in harm’s way and you’re doing, you’re helping to do your part to keep them from getting hurt. It’s an honour to participate in domestic ops as well.
OLIVER: And when disaster strikes overseas, we’re the first team to go in.
OLIVER: I had a tour in Haiti. I participated in many rescue operations within those first couple of weeks. So we got a lot of trapped people out from underneath their houses and stuff like that. So it was an amazing experience that way.
OLIVER: As an Engineer in the Forces, you’re learning a variety of skills that you’ll use your whole life.
OLIVER: You’ll never ever get the opportunity anywhere else to really really know what you’re made of at the end of the day. And that has no price. Combat engineering, it can show you your potential.
MODULE 2 – What’s cool about the job
ROWAN: The best part of the job for me is definitely going to be the demolitions that we do. I absolutely love blowing things up.
OLIVER: I just find it amazing that we can bring all the unbelievable specializations that Combat Engineers offer on land, underwater. It’s an unbelievable capacity. I’m very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to do these amazing courses and be part of elite groups that very few are.
ROWAN: I’d say the highlight so far has been my experiences going down to the States and working with the Americans. I did a course called Air Assault in the States and it was all fast-roping and working with helicopters. That was something that was by far the best thing that I’ve done so far. I really enjoyed that.
MODULE 3 – Trade-Specific Training
OLIVER: Canada’s Combat Engineers get some of the finest hands-on career instruction that you’ll find anywhere in the world.
OLIVER: After basic training, Combat Engineers move on to one of the Canadian Forces’ Battle Schools in Valcartier, Quebec; Meaford, Ontario; or Wainwright, Alberta, to continue to develop their soldier skills.
ROWAN: Then it’s off to Gagetown, New Brunswick, and the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering.
ROWAN: At Gagetown, you’ll spend about five months learning – and DOING -- the basics of field defence construction and fortification of urban structures for defensive purposes. You’ll be taught how to clear mines, how to handle and deploy explosive charges, all about unexploded ordnance disposal, and how to use tools like chainsaws and hydraulic jack-hammers.
ROWAN: You’ll also learn some more advanced combat skills -- how to camouflage yourself and your position, and how to defend your team and fight as a unit.
MODULE 4 – Your First Posting
OLIVER: Your first posting after Gagetown will be with one of the four Combat Engineer or Engineer Support regiments stationed across Canada.
ROWAN: You’ll keep learning, and have the chance to specialize in different facets of the trade, including heavy equipment operation, IED clearance, water supply, combat diving and more.
MODULE 5 – Testimonials
ROWAN: I was looking for something different. I was looking for something other than the 9-to-5. You know, I really wanted a career that was stimulating, something that was going to be different on a day-to-day basis and I really found that with the Engineers.
OLIVER: Well, I was on an exercise as a Reservist, and I saw these cool guys coming out of the water in these cool black suits and it looked unbelievably tactical and so smooth. And I wanted to be that guy. So I went to the recruiting centre and I said “who are these guys”? They said “the combat divers”. So: “well, I want to be one”. So they said “well, you have to become a combat engineer first”. So I said “okay, let’s do it”.
ROWAN: I was a hockey player before I joined the military and actually one of the best things about playing hockey was the camaraderie. You actually get the same thing in the military. The guys, you know, I trust my life with them and they trust their life with me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
OLIVER: I have two deployments in Afghanistan. I would go back in a heartbeat. It’s such an honour being able to serve my country, and to say at the end of the line, I’m doing this not because I like to fight, but because I want to protect. And that’s been the greatest honour of my life.