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The following is a letter home from a young officer:
1 September 2004
Dear Mom and Dad,
I thought I'd write about my first year at the battalion. Things were not quite what I expected. I arrived and reported in to battalion headquarters to the Adjutant. Or I would have, if he wasn't still on leave after having been posted in. I ended up reporting to the Assistant Adjutant instead. He paraded me before the CO. I was so nervous I didn't hear everything the CO said. I remember something about the end of Reconstitution, but apart from that, nothing! After my blissfully short interview, the Assistant Adjutant took me to see the OC. He was away on a French course and the 2IC wasn't there either, as she was off to Kingston to Staff College. There I was thinking for a minute that on my first day in the field force, I might be the Officer Commanding a rifle company. No such luck, I was dreaming the dream when the CSM appeared and said "Easy there, sir, you're not the OC. The LAV Capt is the acting OC." I left company headquarters in search of Lt X. I found him minutes later. He welcomed me, and brought me up to speed on the company's activities and my new "platoon." It wasn't exciting for the immediate future--maintenance!
I put the word "platoon" in quotes for a reason. I was expecting at least thirty troops and discovered that I had ten! My Platoon 2IC is a Master Corporal! Seven of the ten had just arrived at the battalion like me! The platoon was not a hollow shell--a number of tasks took away a lot of soldiers and almost all of the NCOs. Several were filling driver tasks for the Reserves or Cadets, a number were training new recruits at the Area Training Centre and a couple had medical categories. I had a section plus. Some of the troops have taken to calling us "Number Three Plection." I soon discovered that we were starting with IBTS (read as: individual battle task standard training or testing/refreshing all the soldier skills) and then some low-level dismounted training. The other platoons were in a similar state.
Shortly thereafter, my platoon began to fill up again. The tasks ended and so did the individual training for a lot of soldiers. Some of the Corporals completed their Junior NCO training, and others qualified as LAV (light armoured vehicle) drivers or LAV gunners. Finally I could crew all the LAVs! Almost all of the positions within the platoon were filled. You have no idea what a relief this was to me--we started a mechanized exercise the week after!
Having said all that, we were gearing up for another tour in the sunniest war-torn region of Europe, the former Yugoslavia, next fall, hence the return of personnel and the mechanized exercise. We experienced a series of these exercises over the fall and winter in preparation for an all-expenses paid trip to Wainwright for the brigade training event. The return of personnel appeared to be based on the fact that we have sufficient numbers of drivers, gunners and communicators within the platoon. In fact, we had twice the required number. This scared me--I have a sneaking feeling that …