While living in Europe, we often visited the Canadian installation of Lahr for shopping (closed in 1994). Curious about military life for spouses and families in other countries, I asked Canadian blogger and military spouse, Reccewife, for an interview. She was very happy to give others some insight into what military life is like up North.
1) What does your husband do in the Canadian military and how long has he served?
My hubby is a member of the Canadian Army with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadian) Regiment or LdSH(RC). That is an Armoured Regiment, so tanks and armoured vehicles. He is a Patrol Commander in Armoured Recconosance (hence the name Reccewife).2) Is your social circle made up of mostly fellow military spouses or civilians?
I have only a vague idea of what that means, other than he is a ‘first in, last out and always outside the wire’ kind of soldier and his vehicle is a Coyote (I have a picture there). He enlisted at 17 and has been in now almost 12 years.
We live off base in a town nearby and I have only a handful of good friends within the Military. Most of my friends are civilian families from our Church and community.3) To which countries and for how long is the average military assignment? Where has your husband’s career taken you and your family?
This varies widely depending on rank and job within the armed forces. We call each ‘assignment’ a posting. There are a small number of postings within Europe and at Canadian Embassies, but for the most part they are within Canada. Some people will move every 2-3 years and some will stay at the same posting for much longer.4) Is there solid support from the Canadian military for families?
As for us, we are a bit of an anomaly, we are still at the same posting my dh received when he enlisted! We expect that within the next year or so he will be posted to a training base to teach for a while.
The Canadian Forces have over the past several years really improved in this area. The war in Afghanistan was a bit of a shock to families here and much has been done to step up the Services provided to us since then. We have MFRC’s (Military Family Resource Centers) at most bases who offer varying services. My dh’s Regiment has a Family Support Troop made up of a handful of soldiers who do their best to help support families of deployed soldiers. But even at our major bases the majority of soldiers live off the base in the surrounding cities and towns, so there seems to be a lot more disconnect than I see with American military.5) Do find life as a military spouse comparable to your US counterparts?
There are a lot of ways I believe all military families are the same. We have felt the same hurts and frustrations and experienced similar losses. When I read American military family blogs, I can really relate to them.6) Who is the Commander in Chief of Canadian armed forces? For example, in the US it is our President.
But on the other hand, there are huge differences. We don’t have things like a FRG (I had to Google that one a while ago) and families here are much more likely to look at the Military as ‘just another job’.
Very rarely are families so aware and involved with their husband’s unit as I see is the case with American families.
Our bases are much different, there’s no commissary or other big stores or facilities, we have a Canex that is like a much smaller version of a Px and most major bases have a small gym with pool and a family resource center.
Keep in mind that by checking Wikipedia I see that Fort Hood is capable of housing almost 90 000 military service members which is approximately the same number of soldiers that make up the entire Canadian Active Duty and Reserve Force! So much smaller population, much smaller Military, much fewer resources and services offered.
Parliament and the Prime Minister make all major military decisions, but because Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy, the Commander in Chief is the Queen of England, represented in our country by our Governor General.7) Is military service looked upon as a form of national service, patriotic duty, or a professional career choice in Canada?
Unless they had a family member who served or live near a Base, many Canadians know little to nothing about the military. Opinions on it vary widely as they do in the US. I would say that most people are supportive of the Soldiers and see their choice to enlist as a service much like being a police officer or fire fighter. The Yellow Ribbon movement has really taken off here and you see them all over, especially in locations where there are military bases.8) What are the length of his deployments and the typical locations?
Right now Canada is in the process of ending it’s combat role in Afghanistan that it has been a part of since 2002. Canadian soldiers will remain there in smaller numbers in the new Training and Mentoring role.9) Do you feel that your family and friends understand the uniqueness and challenges of your military lifestyle?
For the last 9 years most deployments have been to Afghanistan and can last anywhere from 6-11 months. On top of that there is anywhere from 2-5 months ‘pre-deployment’ training that takes them away from home.
Canadian forces also deploy to places like Haiti for humanitarian work as well as domestically to events like flooding, forest fires, ice storms and other natural disasters. Military has also provided security for events in Canada like the G8 summit and the Olympics. Those deployments last as long as they are needed and vary widely. We also have members deployed right now to Libya and Canadian Peacekeepers have served in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus and many other locations as “Peacekeepers”.
Because most of our soldier’s training happens at specific Training Bases, they are often sent there apart from their families for career courses and training exercises. Those can last anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months or more.
I have awesome friends and a great Church Family who has supported me through 3 deployments to Afghanistan and countless other domestic deployments and training. There will always be people who just don’t get it and feel that my dh is ‘abandoning’ his kids and me every time he leaves, but the vast majority of my experiences have been positive. They may not understand (it can be very hard to explain to civilian friends why my hubby wants to go on a deployment) but they have always been encouraging and supportive.10) What would you like to know about or ask American military spouses?
Because of movies and TV, as well as my husband having served alongside various American units in Afghanistan and the many American Military Spouse blogs that I read, I feel like I know quite a bit about the American military. (I’ve learned all kinds of words like PCS, FRG, TDY and what Blue and Gold Star families are!)Thank you so much for opening up to American military spouses about your life in the Canadian military.
Meanwhile, I’ve talked to American military wives who didn’t even know Canadian soldiers were fighting in Afghanistan.