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PECKFORD: There’s no life like it?

by Larry Peckford

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) web site says its enrollment as of 2020 was 68,000 regular force members and 27,000 reserve force members. Both regulars and reserves were to increase to 71,500 and 30,000 respectively, giving the forces access to over 100,00 members at full strength. This information tells only part of the story as reports I have seen states that CAF has 10,000 positions unfilled and another 10,000 members who are unavailable, sick or injured.

However you crunch the numbers, the CAF is struggling and, as if this is not bad enough, despite the yeoman service of its members to pandemic stricken communities, it is reported hundreds of members refused orders to take the COVID vaccine. That is quite a problem is for an already strapped organization! Both domestic and international obligations are not diminishing and with what is going in Europe, the CAF must be pulling bodies from everywhere to meet the demand.

We live in tough times and CAF members have been counted on to do many things. Too bad governments have not paid sufficient attention to this important national asset. We won’t get into the botched and delayed military procurements that no doubt has had its own impact on making the military an attractive career choice for youth. Tech savvy youth don’t want to be working on out of date equipment or waiting on money to buy fuel to get the ship out to sea.

The southwest coast region, by my estimation, has always been a fertile recruiting ground for the CAF. The Atlantic provinces overall are reliably reported to be over represented in the CAF compared to other regions of the country. The culture of the region with a strong seafaring tradition and often challenging economic conditions made the military a viable career choice for many young persons. In my days as an employment counsellor the CAF recruiting team made regular appearances at employment centres. I steered many a wayward youth to consider joining up. The experience often changed lives even if the stay was only one tour of duty. Going back even further in time, as a youth I was a member of the air cadets. I count this experience as formative and helpful. I don’t know what the numbers are these days for the cadet units (army, navy and air) but I remember for many years there was a strong army cadet corps in Port aux Basques and the Codroy Valley.

I appreciate that the CAF was restrained in recruitment by the pandemic but things are now getting back on track so we should be seeing an uptick in recruitment efforts. Anecdotally, I hear the culture of the CAF needs an overhaul as today your average youth will not take kindly to training methods that are out of date. Your average CAF training officer may need reminding that getting the best out of a young recruit these days is not achieved by shouting and belittling the person. So sorry, but that does not work anymore. Some CAF TV advertising I recall in the past has been effective. Putting a little patriotism and appeal for national service on display may be one way of telling a good story.

Thanks to those CAF members who serve loyally and faithfully in difficult circumstances. May you be joined soon by a new crop of members. The times in which we live makes your service ever valuable and hopefully your political masters gain a new appreciation for your work.

Larry Peckford has had a varied career in Newfoundland as a public servant and community volunteer. He maintains a seasonal residence in the Codroy Valley. You can reach him at:

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