My mom would be pleased to hear that I didn't jump out a plane this week. Without a tandem jump master currently on base, there was no one qualified to take me. I would have loved the opportunity, but I must admit a small part of me was slightly relieved.
Going into the week I think I was more concerned with how my hair would be received in a military environment typically known for their clean cut hair styles. I hoped they had spent some time on the website, know what I look like, and so are aware of what they are getting themselves into.
Luckily they were fully aware and I somehow managed to come out of the week hair still intact (Though I definitely got my fair share of inquisitive looks). It's not everyday, well actually I should say â€˜any day' that you see a guy with long blond dreadlocks fully suited in combat gear walking around CFB Trenton.
Love For Acronyms
I thought that I was accustomed to the use of acronyms after I spent last week with TSAE in Austin, Texas.
I learned this week that the military's' love of acronyms and short form makes the acronyms of associations seem like a walk in the park. An example: "At 8AMS, I met a mech eng, two years out of RMC, now an LT at CFB Trenton. Then in the aft I helped config a flight sim at 426 TTS."
At times it's as if they are speaking a different language.
Although I didn't jump out of a plane, there was no shortage of excitement this week and I realize just how lucky I am to have had such an amazing opportunity.
Out In The Field
Immediately after arriving, I got fitted in my combat gear, then met with the big boss on base, 8 Wing Commander Colonel Mike Hood, one of the many responsible for bringing me to Trenton. Then, it was time to head out into the field.
I visited several squadrons over the course of the week. My first stop was with 8ACCS, Air Communication and Control System with a primary mission to support Canadian air operations.
I participated in a simulation as an Air Traffic Controller bringing an aircraft in to land and visited the mobile air traffic control towers. It's amazing how they can transport all that equipment and have great communication signals even in the most remote areas of the world.
Later in the week, it was interesting to see the actual ATCs at work. I was even allowed to speak to a few aircrafts giving them instructions on how to proceed. One of the pilots must have thought I was crazy because I accidentally held onto the call button while speaking with a co-worker a few desks away. Oops!
Simulating Real Flight
With the crew at 8AMS (Air Maintenance Squadron), I helped re-fuel an aircraft heading overseas, turned some wrenches with the maintenance guys, and assisted a start up.
Over at 426 Transport Training Squadron, I spent some time in the flight simulator to see if I had what it takes to be a pilot.
It was incredible how realistic it was. The cock pit is an exact model of what you would see on the C-130 Hercules, everything looks, feels, and reacts the same.
Although not really something to be proud of, I can now say that I have crashed a plane in Hong Kong, Paris, Toronto, Alert, and in Thule, Greenland.
At the 424 Search and Rescue/Transport Squadron, I arrived in the morning and 20 minutes later was riding in the front seat of a Griffin Helicopter.
I have never been in a helicopter before and it was an awesome experience. The pilot let me try my hand at hovering and take control of the stick when we headed back to the base in Trenton.
I didn't realize how difficult it would be to keep the helicopter in one stable position. This is an important skill to master as many times the pilot will have to remain hovering as search and rescue technicians rappel out to the victim.
Adding to the level of difficulty, the weather and terrain will most likely not be cooperating in a rescue type situation.
After we landed, I wasn't exactly sure what the plan was. The helicopter is really loud and so difficult to communicate without the radio. I got out of the front seat, then was escorted into the back seat.
Within five minutes we were off again with two different pilots and a couple of Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs). We headed out to a nearby field for a training rescue. The two SAR Techs rappelled to the ground followed by a stretcher. The helicopter then lowered and I was able to get onto the ground to get an amazing view from underneath.
I always knew that helicopters generate a lot of wind, but I was surprised to experience just how powerful it really is. I had to drop to my knees in order to not be blown over and even then I had to brace myself.
As we arrived back at the base, I left the Griffin Helicopter and was escorted directly across the tarmac to the C-130 Hercules, a military transport aircraft. I put on a different helmet, a harness, and walked up the ramp at the back of plane into the cargo storage area.
Once we hit our cruising altitude, I got harnessed in and helped open the side doors as well as the back ramp. It felt just like the movies. Flying in a military aircraft, the back fully extended open, standing near the edge looking down at the houses and trees that appear as mere specs on the ground far below.
The SAR Techs were unable to jump due to high winds, but I was given the opportunity to make three drops - basically throwing items off the back of the plane when given the order so as to hit the mark below.
Another highlight of the week was working with the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit within 8AMS. Basically, they get to blow stuff up. I got to blow a stick of C4 as well as about a dozen phosphorus bombs which explodes when contacted by oxygen. The guys were a lot of fun and it was a really cool experience.
A Range Of Opportunity
When many think of the military, we tend to think immediately of fighter pilots, weapons, infantry... After only a few days within the military and seeing all the different challenges, opportunities, and dynamic activities it encompasses, I quickly saw the vastness and variation of positions offered.
Whatever you may be interested in, whether it be policing, photography, engineering, teaching, you name it and I guarantee that you can find something that matches it in one of the squadrons in the Canadian Forces.
Thanks so much to everyone who made my experience such a positive one. I really enjoyed my time at the base and appreciated all the patience and willingness to share your trade. I have the deepest respect for all of you!