HARDING: We live in a dangerous century of asymmetric threats and sudden terror when reading the enemy’s mind is more important and more difficult than ever.
GODEFROY: If you’re ready to lead a team performing real-time, real-world analysis on the front lines of the information age, then serving as an Intelligence Officer in the Canadian Forces may be the best decision you will ever make.
I’m Major Jim Godefroy. I’m an Intelligence Officer from Montreal, Quebec, and I work at the Canadian Forces Joint Imagery Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.
And I’m Lieutenant Navy Sharlene Harding from Brampton, Ontario. I’m an Intelligence Officer serving with the Canadian Forces Support Training Group in Kingston.
HARDING: The days of knowing who the enemy is, how many battalions they have and how they fight are over. Our job is to predict the future in an asymmetric world where enemies like al-Qaeda and the Taliban have the potential to surprise us -- and hurt us -- every day.
GODEFROY: On deployment, or on base, it’s our responsibility to make sure that the people who need to be informed are informed because these days, it’s not just knowing what’s going on on the ground, it’s knowing what the ground looks like -- the weather, the terrain, the people and the politics.
From a tsunami in Asia to Hurricane Katrina to the situation in central Africa, Canada’s military and political leaders need to know what’s happening as it’s happening. It’s the duty and the privilege of Intelligence Officers to lead the teams that collect and provide them with that information.
HARDING: I’ve been an Intelligence Officer for eight years now. I served as a liaison officer during Operation Halo in Haiti and I went to Bosnia as a task force intelligence officer where my job was to keep our troops safe from external threats among the population.
GODEFROY: Their lives and the possibility that they may come to harm rests on the knowledge that the commander has of what he’s facing going in. So there is quite a heavy burden as far as that goes. You know that the information that you and your staff are able to provide is going to assist him in making a better decision about what risks he can take.
HARDING: To do that, Intelligence Officers in the Canadian Forces rely on some of the best training, the best people and the best resources in the world.
GODEFROY: As your career advances, there are opportunities for specialization and promotion in fields like Strategic Analysis and Intelligence Operations, all the way up to being a Senior Canadian Liaison Officer at an embassy or Intelligence Advisor at a military command overseas.
Successful Intelligence Officers are people who are book-smart with a great hunger for learning, for reading and for knowing what’s going on all around the world.
HARDING: When we read the news and you see something that’s either unbelievable or you knew it was going to happen – that kind of stuff really excites me, so military coups or instability in different regions of the world, it sounds kinda morbid saying it excites me, but it interests me and it makes me want to learn more about it.
GODEFROY: You can find yourself as a quite junior person being the one individual who’s there providing this information and conveying this information to a very senior audience, so you have to become quite comfortable very quickly, both with being self-confident about the information that you’re presenting and also being able to communicate that information effectively to somebody who you might find a little bit intimidating given their rank or position.
HARDING: If you can go in there with “this is the problem, this is what I recommend” or “this is my solution” and “this is based on extensive research that you’ve done”, then you’re fine.
If this sounds like the career you’re looking for, there are two main routes to move from the civilian world to become an Intelligence Officer in the Forces.
GODEFROY: One is to attend the Royal Military College in Kingston. RMC gives you a great education of public expense and a commission and full salary as soon as you graduate. All you owe them when you graduate are three years of full-time service to your country.
HARDING: Or if you already have a degree in Geography, Economics, Journalism, International Studies or a related field from a Canadian university, you can move straight to the Forces under what’s called the Direct Entry plan with an officer’s salary, benefits and pension kicking in the day you join.
GODEFROY: Either way, you’ll go through the same basic field-craft and weaponry training that infantry, artillery and armoured officers get. You’ll learn how a modern army moves and fights and you’ll begin to understand that true leadership doesn’t come in a nice neat envelope with your commission. It’s something you have to earn every day.
HARDING: When your Basic Officer and Common Army phase training is complete, you’ll enter the Basic Intelligence Officer Course here in Kingston. That’s where you’ll start to learn about open- and closed-source information gathering, threat assessments and analysis. You’ll work with and lead a section of non-commissioned Intelligence Operators as they prepare briefings and monitor enemy communications.
GODEFROY: You’ll probably spend a lot of your time on base working behind a desk. It’s sort of like editing a small newspaper supervising the news-gatherers and molding their reports into a concise, readable form. Of course, in military intelligence, there are lives on the line and Canadians in harm’s way. If you get it wrong, you can’t just run a correction the next day.
HARDING: Do you know when your mission is completed or when things are successful? Traditionally, at the end of your mission when you’re coming back home and everyone’s coming back with you, you know your mission’s been done.
GODEFROY: Knowing that you’ve had this instant impact on the situation, being able to see what the impact is of what information you’ve provided is quite gratifying. It keeps people going.
HARDING: Wherever you go as an Intelligence Officer, there’s a lot of writing, a lot of thinking and a lot of getting up and telling a group of people what you’ve learned and what you think is going to happen. You have to prove yourself, but when you do prove yourself, you get incredible respect -- and earning respect is what being an officer is all about.