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Army

Signals Officer

OFFICER | Full Time, Part Time


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Overview

Signals Officers deliver telecommunications services to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), especially the Army and command units. 

A Signals Officer is responsible for the operations and maintenance of all communications systems that are not built into aircraft, boats or ships. They may be employed in policy development, project management, systems engineering and network operation. They work with command support equipment and systems that include:

  • Purpose-designed, computer-based information systems that assist with battlefield command and control, reconnaissance and surveillance, and target acquisition
  • The full spectrum of radio systems
  • Electronic warfare capabilities
  • Cyber warfare capabilities
  • Cryptographic and communications- security capabilities

Work environment

Signals Officers work in all climates, environments and circumstances, from the office-like setting of a base or garrison to service with an operational Army unit, both in Canada and on overseas deployments that may involve combat. Signals Officers may be deployed overseas on operations, or be posted to an international headquarters or to an exchange or liaison assignment in an allied nation.

Career Overview

Transcript

LIEUTENANT SEAN MINCKLER: I’m Lieutenant Sean Minckler, from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland — a Signals Officer with 5 Headquarters & Signals Squadron, Valcartier.

To a modern fighting force, information is as essential as ammunition. Battle orders, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition for our deployed forces depend on a secure, fail-safe network delivering real-time information, day or night. Signal Officers design, develop and implement the next generation of information technology for the Canadian Armed Forces. They work in tactical settings and at strategic levels to support Army operations around the world. They form the bridge between the technical and tactical sides of Army communications.

LIEUTENANT SEAN MINCKLER: It’s not our job to actually install the cable or fix the radio or anything like that. Our job is very much the planning and the administration and the care-for of the troop or what you’re in charge of.

Signal Officers lead teams of highly trained technical experts — Signal Technicians, Signal Operators, Information Systems Technicians and Line Technicians — in the design, installation and operation of complex voice and data networks on bases across Canada as well as on operations around the world. That includes satellite links and computer networks; radio, wireless, and hard-wired voice communications; and classified, coded transmissions that connect commanders and combat troops in some of the most remote regions on the planet.

LIEUTENANT SEAN MINCKLER: It’s kind of like a huge puzzle: deciding who needs what information when, and doing our best to make it work.
Command and control is what wins battles. Without it, soldiers won’t have the information they need to do their jobs effectively.

LIEUTENANT SEAN MINCKLER: Like the artillery say: “no comms, no bombs.” If you can’t talk to each other, nobody can coordinate; people that are fighting beside each other won’t know who’s beside them, and everything becomes chaos.

LIEUTENANT SEAN MINCKLER: The coolest part of my job is definitely interacting with the troops. Their amount of knowledge is just incredible — they can show you exactly how their job is done and have a relaxed conversation. The guys are always coming up with new stories of how they were able to solve a problem, always coming up with new ideas, new technology that they want to implement. Every day, I’m more and more impressed.

After completing training requirements, Signal Officers are posted to a signal troop or platoon at one of four brigades across Canada, where they lead troops of up to 30 highly trained personnel. Reservists fulfill the same role in 23 different Army Reserve Signal units across the country.

Signal Officers are responsible for the planning, testing and implementation of highly technical systems to ensure the Army has reliable communications. That could mean establishing an IT network in a deployed setting, advancing the Army’s cyber capabilities, or working in Electronic Warfare or Signals Intelligence.
Being a successful Signal Officer means embracing challenges to solve complex problems, being flexible, and imaginative. An understanding of information technology is critical, as are strong communication skills.

LIEUTENANT SEAN MINCKLER: To be good as a Signals Officer, it just takes a lot of time, patience and understanding. A lot of people definitely don’t have a technical background, even myself, a background in computer science will not get me 100% of the way there. It’s a lot of learning, it’s a lot of being able to absorb, adapt and overcome to the situations presented.

LIEUTENANT SEAN MINCKLER: It’s definitely a big responsibility, but honestly I like it — that’s sort of the reason why I joined the military. I didn’t join the military to have that 9-to-5. If you’re seeking a job that’s thrilling, you get to see the world, but also has that technical background, I would highly suggest the Signals Officer.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Physicists
  • Aerospace Engineers
  • Computer Engineers
  • Other Professional Engineers, N.E.C.
  • Computer Systems Analysts
  • Computer Programmers
  • Electrical & Electronic Engineering Technologist and Technicians

Training

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 12 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the Forces, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Signals Officers will attend the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario. During this period, they learn the skills and knowledge required to supervise and lead a Troop in tactical operations in the field, applying and building on the skills and knowledge gained during earlier training events. Emphasis will be placed on leadership, administration, and more advanced theory of communications and electronics and its application.

Signals Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training.

After basic training, you will go to the Infantry School at the Combat Training Centre in Gagetown, New Brunswick. You will build upon the leadership training you received in basic officer training in addition to learning the skills required of all Combat Arms Soldiers, including more advanced weapons-handling, field-craft, and section-level tactics.

Entry plans

Regular Officer Training Plan

Due to the requirement for CAF officer to obtain a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a bachelor degree program in the Royal Military College System. Recruits will receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working in the CAF for a period of time. Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In rare instances, based on the needs of the CAF, candidates may be approved attend another Canadian University. A determination will be made on a case by case basis. If you are applying for this program, you must apply to the CAF and it is recommended to apply to other Canadian universities of your choice should you not be accepted for ROTP.

Learn more about our Paid Education programs here.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Army Base or armoury in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Signals Officers serve with the Canadian Army. They are responsible for the operations and maintenance of all communications systems that are not built into aircraft, boats or ships and may be employed in policy development, project management, systems engineering and network operation. When employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve with the Canadian Army and command units at locations within Canada.

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, the home unit will arrange for additional training for specialized skills. Training for Signals Officers is conducted at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario.

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 92.8 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.