Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Et tu, Brute?" Part 1

"It will be great for your career. You'll learn French and move faster up the ranks than anyone else by knowing two languages". These were the words of my training Sergeant on my final days after completing my Combat Engineer course in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada. My final days after spending one year waiting and training for my chosen profession of arms with the Canadian military. Here I was on the cusp of my new life as a professional soldier, the few and the tempered from rigorous months and hours of training. My new life laid before me and I was about to embark on a voyage to that mysterious land of the French.

Stepping back a moment, let me tell you about my life up until this point. Born in a relatively major east coast city in Canada I grew up like most kids, never really popular but never really picked on. Forever the wallflower and the guy who you knew but never really knew. Went to school but never really studied, I was smart enough to pass most classes without trying. Eventually I went to University where again with not effort maintained the median mark. I was the tip of the curve in all my classes. That's why after 4 years and one year of a victory lap I came to a fork in the road for change. Too long I had hit the snooze button on life and now I had to wake up. Burdend with student debt and no immediate prospects for a fresh out of school Liberal arts major I turned to the military for a career. Ironically enough I found this is why most people join up. Not to pay off school but rather to save up for it. So right off the start I had things backwards.

Speeding ahead a few months I had sworn in and gotten shipped out for basic training. Not much to comment here. The instructors in charge of this had been doing their job long enough to have seen it all. Crushing egos and modeling men and women to their whim under the threat of expulsion or worse, military prison. Formation marching, drilling, and loads of yelling were the daily usual and the ever present striving and seeking of a single standards for all my fellow candidates. It's funny how if you place a perfectly sane individual in such a regulated and formal environment that within four or five weeks they will degenerate to raving lunatics with such statements as "WHICH WAY DOES THE TOOTHPASTE FACE!!!!!" or coming to blows over an argument of who has more motivation/drive. But like all things it came to an end. What was most the most stress inducing situation is now a faded memory. I can hardly remember half of those people who I was so close too at one time.

Having graduated from my basic course there was the usual hoorah where you party with your fellow coursemates as you stressed over the coming months of further training towards your future profession. Around me their was guys and girls going of to become sailors, airmen, clerks, medics, and cooks. I was of a different category: the combat arms. We were the guys (85%+ males) who watched way too many war movies and played way too many video games growing up. We weren't there to just be cannon fodder or have some stable job because we knocked up our high school girlfriend. No, we were there for varying reasons. Medals and heroics were on our minds for the majority of us. We wanted the fame that came with being a warrior, an alpha. But there were the others who were their for more sadistic reasons. Guys who wanted the legal right to kill another person, persons with a high attraction to weapons, and guys who just thought firing the big guns would be "cool". I must admit there is an inordinate level of ignorance that drives the potential combat soldier. The majority of this just comes from the inexperience and naivety of youth, but there is that small component that I belonged who joined for more altruistic reasons. Some guys knew others who had died already serving in Afghanistan, others felt for those they didn't know who had passed on yet done it under the auspices of for their fellow Canadians. Either way these types of people I gravitated towards more because it reinforced and parlayed my own insecurities of why I joined.

My next stop was to be the Canadian Forces School if Military Engineering, there my skills would be sharpened and be formed into a Combat Arms soldier. I was both scared and excited and as I was soon to find out I was well justified in having both.

To be continued...
*All names forthwith and hence have been omitted and/or changed to protect identities.

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