The enlistment dilemma.
Sometimes I wonder if things would be better if I had remained in the Reserves, yet when I look at things like rate of pay and actual working conditions I shy away from such fantasies and look elsewhere to find workplace satisfaction. Nowadays the Canadian Forces Reserves has gotten more top-heavy with all the bureaucracy that comes with enlistment, and while Regular Force (full time) is worth the wait for someone looking for work the Reserves is not the same story. Indeed soldiers in the Reserves are cheaper to pay for they only receive their day’s wages if they work past 6 hours, otherwise it is half of what they would get for the day and that is it. Furthermore, benefits like medical coverage only exist if you are injured on duty, otherwise you are better off finding your own medical benefits plan – dental seems to be the only generous program with the Reserves. Pensions and so on are non-existent, and with people already working their full time civilian jobs they have to put out even more energy just to remain in the Reserves without the security and stability of Regular Force programs and benefits.
“Okay,” you may say, “but you are only serving part time – how hard can it be?” Well for starters they will not “build up” to the physical standards that you would think they would build up towards – they expect you to already be fighting fit from the moment you enlist. Second you are expected to achieve the exact same proficiency as the full time members but without the same support that regular members get (I got blisters after a ruck march and had no medical care given (the outer layer of skin was peeling – I couldn’t walk for a week) – I was told to seek medical attention elsewhere after the working hours were done. Basically if you were injured on a Wednesday night training (and those blisters kept me off my feet for a week) you are on your own), nor the same benefits and compensation as regular members get. This of course amounts to soldiers in the Reserves being treated as cheap labour; even when you work overtime you get no overtime pay – in the civilian market that is flat out illegal, but in the army, apparently, it is all good.
Sure I wish to be of service, but I want to make a living out of it. Other part-time jobs offer better pay and hours than the Reserves, and you don’t even have to wait a year and a half to get in. Right now the Canadian Forces are experimenting with a shortened enlistment program, but I doubt it will arrive in time to change my mind about enlisting in the Reserves. No I am not anti-military, but I will not sign on if it takes forever just for 400.00 per month with no medical attention for injuries that prevent me from going to work the next day – they seem to forget that the Reservists have jobs that support them going to the Reserves outside of the military, and that if they cannot support themselves then they will not enlist and your Reserve force will be understaffed. The civilian jobs allow them to enlist, not the other way around where the Reserves allows them to work in their civilian occupations – the sooner they realize that (and the fact that people work different shifts now – how about Reserves for evening and graveyard shift workers, eh?) the sooner these problems will go away.
This is a professional army, and therefore the Reserves is like any other job out there – you go to work and then you go home. Make it easier for people to join, provide better training opportunities, pay, and support and we shall see about signing up. Until then you can watch your beloved force shrink as members get older (and thus retire over time) and young workers find that their well-paying shift-work job will not accommodate the Reserves and therefore will not enlist – so much for a strong, proud, and ready force.