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Letter to the Editor

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CMJ Vol. 10, No. 2I read with interest Captain Doran’s article on re-evaluating the role of Reserve officers in the Canadian Forces (CF). [Vol. 10, No. 2, 2010]. This discussion is certainly not new, and, while Doran focuses upon the Militia, some of his points are relevant to the Naval and Air Reserves as well.

It seems always to have been the case that the Reserve is the ‘poor cousin’ of the Regular Force. If budgets are tight, it is the Reserve, typically, that suffers in terms of training and equipment opportunities. This “beggar my neighbour” policy, when practised by the Regular Force, has had negative effects on Reserve retention, operational readiness, and morale.

But what do we want from our Reserve Force? Is it a body to provide good citizenship training for the young? Is it a body to undertake specific tasks such as coastal or territorial defence? Or is it to provide a pool of semi-trained manpower for Regular Force augmentation and recruitment?

In recent years, as the operational tempo of the CF has increased, the Regular Force has increasingly relied upon the Reserve to fill gaps on deployments. As Captain Doran notes, in many cases, Reservists go to ‘softer’ jobs, presumably releasing fully trained Regulars to undertake the ‘harder’ jobs, especially in combat units. This may seem unfair, but it probably does reflect that it is almost impossible for a Reservist to maintain training and capability levels comparable to those of full-time soldiers.

This brings us back to the question of what we want from our Reserve Force. The old territorial concept of citizen soldiers and sailors who are ‘part-timers’ seems to be out of vogue. What the Regular Force wants are trained and battle-hardened personnel who can fill in for Regulars at any time and in any place, and who will enjoy the confidence of Regular Force commanders for being able to do so. If this is the case, we should probably apply our energy to recruiting into the Reserves those who have had training and experience at Regular Force levels, rather than relying upon a student population, as now appears to be the case.

Most Reservists, especially those who are trying to pursue and advance in civilian careers, do not have the time or commitment available to be ‘just like the Regulars.’ Those who do should probably join the Regular Force and pursue their military careers on a full-time professional basis. If one accepts the Reserve Force for what it was originally, namely, a cadre of partially-trained, enthusiastic, part-time citizen soldiers, sailors, and airmen, there will not be the expectation that all can, or should, fill Regular Force positions at will. In this particular situation, as in others in life, ‘mixing apples and oranges’ does not often work.


David Collins, CD
Lieutenant-Commander (ret’d)
High Commissioner-Canada

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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