By Mark Dreger
With equipment displays and a target practice simulation, the public was invited Saturday to participate in Kelowna’s Canadian Army Reserve open house.
It was part of a cross-Canada series as reserve units across the country look to bolster their numbers.
“Today, all across Canada, the Primary Reserve Units are holding an open house, where basically we just open up our doors to the general public so you can come in and see what the reserves are all about,” said Captain Jeff Daley, who spent a year in Afghanistan as a 99 TAC commander.
Over the last summer, many local soldiers worked domestically and were sent across the province to fight wildfires during one of the driest summers on record.
“Recently we just had the fires—worst fire season in BC’s history—and from this unit alone I deployed 22 guys away to go help fight the fires up in William’s Lake,” Daley said. “Then we had Joe Rich [fire] just across the way and because I had sent all my guys away already, so we’re trying to generate more people. I only have so many soldiers and 22 people were able to go from the unit, so if I had more people locally I would have been able to deploy more people to go help the RCMP and the fire fighters fight those fires.”
One of the new recruits, Private Liam Zimmermann, just began as a soldier and is excited about the opportunity to talk to people about joining.
“I’m still in high school, and in Grade 10 the recruiter came to school and he talked a little bit what [the army] was all about and I was absolutely sold,” Zimmermann said. “As soon as I turned 16 I sent in my application in July and that November I got sworn in and it was all sort of trip from there.”
The Army Reserve is also encouraging Canadians to join on a part-time basis if they attend school or have a full-time civilian job, which typically is four evenings and one weekend per month.
“The key point about the Primary Reserves is you only deploy if you want to,” Daley said, with at least two of his soldiers currently serving in Africa and Latvia. “This isn’t the old days where conscription’s in and we’re going to send you away for sure. It’s a part-time program. If you want to go do that kind of stuff, I’ll send you; if you don’t want to go and you just want to do stuff domestically, we still need you here as well.”
The Government of Canada has committed to increasing the size of the Reserve Force to 30,000 (up 1,500 soldiers), and to reduce the length of time it takes for an individual to join the Reserve Force to approximately 30 days.