Letter to the Editor

Cover of Volume 16 No 3

Letter to the Editor

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Sir, the article by Tremblay and Coombs (Vol. 16, No. 3, Summer 2016) on The Reserve Force: Quo Vadis is one in a fine series of commentaries and studies that no doubt started when Canada passed its first Militia Act in 1855. Based on my own experience, we are actually not much closer to knowing what we want from our Reservists, either individually or as units. Part of the challenge is that we may be encumbered by too much history as to how our Reserves developed. The Naval Reserve was created in the 1920s to perpetuate a naval footprint in the country when we would not fund a proper regular Navy. The Militia, with its history of numerous and honourable regiments across the land, struggles even today to be fit for purpose, with many units too small to field even a company. It is true that there have been ebbs and flows, and when the call has come, such as in the Second World War or Afghanistan, the Reserve and Reservists rose to the occasion.

There may be some confusion as to what we want Reservists to do. Do we want the mosaic of units across the country to provide a measure of military involvement in the community? Or do we want units to be force generators which can ‘cough up’ personnel for whatever requirement may exist at a point in time? In some measure, our encouragement of full-time Reservists (manning the MCDVs in the Navy, or augmenting battle groups in Afghanistan, as examples) has rather obscured the original purpose of the Reserve. Reservists have always been limited by how much time they have to train, and how much time they have to deploy. Over the years, there have been financial challenges that inhibit training time or equipment provision to the Reserve. Perhaps the concept of Reserves as amateurs no longer fits.

Promoting Reservists to be on full-time active duty, in my opinion, seems to dodge the issue. If so many Reservists can spend so much time on active duty, and if this is needed by the Regular Force, perhaps they should do a component transfer for the time they are on extended active duty? (I am talking about those who are away for years, not weeks or months) How can we do better in promoting the health of local units when we seem to be taking away so many of their trained personnel?

Perhaps we need a whole new model, and the authors suggest several skeins to this, such as employing specialist medical and legal folk who are not attached to units, or bringing in selected civilians for certain tasks. One area which still deserves more attention is persuading ex-Regular personnel to join the Reserve in some useful capacity when they release. While many may have had ‘enough,’ there are more who could be persuaded to become part-timers. The bottom line for me is that we need to determine what we want our Reservists to be: trained part-timers who can support requirements in a limited way, or virtually full-timers who are, in fact, an organic part of the Regular Force.

I fear that the health of today’s Reserve Forces may indicate that we are not doing very well with either approach.

Yours sincerely,

An Old Reservist, David B. Collins