COMMUNICATOR RESEARCH OPERATOR
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
At the razor’s edge of new technology, an elite group of detectives searches the spectrum for threats to our country.
They are called Communicator Research Operators. Sequestered in classified quarters in Canada – and deployed on land, sea and air missions around the world – they intercept and interpret information that Canadians weren’t meant to hear or see.
I’m Sergeant Brett Wareham from St-John’s, Newfoundland, a Communicator Research Operator currently posted to CFS Leitrim, Ottawa, Ontario. And I’m Master Corporal Rob Stead, from Stittsville, Ontario, a Communicator Research Operator posted to 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment in Kingston, Ontario.
STEAD: If you like to stay in the know about world events, and emerging communication technologies and have a knack for foreign languages - then becoming a Communicator Researcher Operator might be the right choice for you!
WAREHAM: It’s a work environment that – every day, there is a surprise. It’s good to know the news before it becomes news.
STEAD: As Communicator Research Operators, we use some of the world’s most sophisticated equipment to intercept foreign electronic transmissions and computer data.
WAREHAM: Foreign language skills are a huge asset to a Communicator Research Operator. If you speak, read or write a language other than French or English – or if you have a gift for languages and you’re eager to learn a new one, then this would be a particularly good trade for you.
WAREHAM: Personally, myself, I’m really good with computers and other electronic systems. But the best thing to have is an open mind, because you never stop learning. We get to utilize technologies or use systems that I would have never dreamed existed prior to joining this trade. Unfortunately, I can’t directly tell you what we do – and that’s what makes the trade so awesome.
STEAD: We’re cleared to the highest levels of national security – and to our commanders we’re like an additional layer of protection.
WAREHAM: Communicator Research Operators serve with every branch of the Canadian Armed Forces: we fly with the Air Force, sail with the Navy and are boots on the ground with the Army wherever they deploy around the world.
STEAD: Electronic Warfare Operators within the Comms Research trade also operate cutting-edge communications technologies. But our office is the back of an armoured vehicle or out on the ground with our light electronic warfare kit that we carry in a rucksack.
STEAD: When the Bisons roll into location, they are able to intercept any type of communications within the area, as well as hone in on a direction where they’re coming from. We are able to provide intelligence to the soldiers in the fight about potential threats to their safety, as well as locations of the enemy to enable them to do their job. It’s really exciting being out there, to be on the ground, working side-by-side with the commanders to keep their guys safe.
STEAD: As an Army unit, life at 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment includes development of field-craft and soldier skills, like patrolling, small arms weaponry, and winter warfare.
STEAD: With our light electronic warfare teams, we are actually able to insert right into the front with the boots on the ground, whether that be air mobile operations, or airborne insertions, or with a light infantry company, reconnaissance platoon, snipers. We need to be able to insert with them as well.
STEAD: Members of my troop have completed Basic Reconnaissance Patrol courses as well as Radio Recon courses with the United States Marine Corps and the UK Royal Marines.
WAREHAM: After basic military training, the specialized training to become a Communicator Research Operator takes place at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario.
WAREHAM: After my training in Kingston, I was posted here, to Leitrim. We’re set up to work at the cutting edge of high technology, designing our own systems and building our own networks.
WAREHAM: There’s a lot to take in, there’s so much to take in. Just the world that opens up behind the veil, per se, it really wakens you up to what the potential and possibilities are behind the scenes.
STEAD: As your career progresses, your opportunities for postings and deployments increase.
WAREHAM: I was sent to Afghanistan twice. The first time, I was in the counter-IED role. Secondly, I went over to Afghanistan in the Mobile Electronic Warfare Technologies, under 21 EW. And the third time I deployed was with the current Operation Impact, over to Kuwait. We assisted the air task force to provide situational awareness and mission support from that angle.
STEAD: This trade has a bunch of outside Canada positions; including Hawaii and Colorado Springs. There are also postings in the UK and Australia.
STEAD: There’s so much more out there within the trade. I just look forward to what comes next.
WAREHAM: There’s times when you will do something that will directly impact the safety of someone else. That’s just what we do: we are the man behind the curtain that everyone wants to have.
STEAD: What I’m looking forward to in the future of this job is just being able to deploy again and just provide the support needed to the ones who need it the most, that being the boots on the ground, and help them to accomplish their missions as well as do my best to keep them safe.