I was born/grew up in: I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and grew up in the Ottawa valley.
I now live in: Haley Station, Ontario.
I completed my training/education at: All of my training as a Materials Technician was completed at Base Borden, near Barrie, ON. After I complete the first few months of Basic Training I then entered the program. My education was built around learning how to weld. I learned how to use a MIG (metal inert gas), "stick" welding, SMAW (shield metal arc welding), TIG (tungsten inert gas), oxy-acetylene welding, to name a few. We also learned auto-body and auto-paint, gas mask repair, and sea can inspection. Later I took more advanced courses like non-destructive testing (the process of finding faults in welds without destroying it).
What I do at work
As a Material Technician, I am responsible for finding working solutions to problems that arise when fixing the military’s equipment. The skills we use to make these repairs are, welding, textiles repair (sewing), sheet metal fabrication and machining to name a few. We apply these skills in a variety of environments such as in the maintenance buildings on base. We can also be deployed to training areas that might involve sleeping in tents, eating military rations and even operational war-zones. We are problem solvers.
When I am on base my workday starts at 0700 when we meet as a group to conduct physical training/workout together. At work, I use my knowledge of metallurgy (the physical and chemical properties of metals) to make a metal product. You have to know a metal’s properties in order to get the desired effect. Welding is a skill, using knowledge, artfully! Thinking outside the box is a great skill to have as well.
If the tools don’t exist to fix equipment, we make them. I use all kinds of specialty tools like metal benders, metal shears, welding equipment, sewing machines, lathes and milling machines. Decision-making is a big part of our day. We work in a fast-paced environment with many tasks to do. So using our time and people efficiently is in our best interest. For example, we would set something like a repair to an armour vehicle as priority over something like making a flag or sewing modular tents.
I am part of a team of technicians, who at times work with other materials technicians. Sometimes I have the opportunity to be a team leader to unskilled/no experience soldiers. At this time, I will teach them basic skills to help with large production projects. Mentoring those who are new or have little experience in this trade is a big part of what we do. As a Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) of this trade, I have an additional role. SME’s are expected to inform and advise our officers on proper repair procedures and critical safety requirements. Meeting the demands of units or commanders is always our top objective.
My career path is
I joined the reserves (part-time service) when I was 17 and still in high school. I’ve been in service since then. Once in the reserves I saw the potential for this to become my job in the long term. I had completed my high school diploma while working in the reserves. My career (I’m in my 23rd year of service, I joined when I was 17) has taken me to the North Pole and to California a few times. I've been all over Ontario, Bosnia, Macedonia, Afghanistan and parts of Europe.
My experiences have overall been very positive. When I joined the regular force (full-time service) in 2005 I wanted a trade that would give me options when I retire. I also wanted to work with my hands. One thing I must mention is that I never stop learning. Every day I see something new or a different way to approach problems. “Lessons learned” is a term for someone who has done it and perfected a process. This kind of information is invaluable.
I am motivated by
Working with some of the best people this country produces! My job is unique in that I am given problems to solve. I love the responsibility of coming up with solutions to problems that require an “outside the box” approach. We are given skills to achieve this, but to be a Materials Technician, you must be a problem solver. The tool we use most is our brain.
This career was right for me for many reasons. The first is satisfaction in a job well done; nothing replaces this. Having the confidence to do things you have never done before is liberating and challenging. After a while this transfers to your everyday life. I actually seek the resolution of problems instead of avoiding them.
Another reason this career was right for me is that I am a hands on learner, have very good hand-eye coordination, and I always enjoyed working in a team setting. I like being physically fit and working outdoors. I am resilient and have a “no fail’ attitude. The military WILL expose parts of your personality you probably had no idea were there. It will make you do things you would probably never try on your own, like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. When a group of people experience hardships in the form of realistic training, the bonds that are formed will literally last a lifetime.
How I affect people’s lives
I am part of the CAF team. Our team has many capabilities that are important to other parts of the organization. We give assistance to disaster affected areas, peacekeeping operations, and conventional wartime operations. Throughout any of these situations Materials Technicians can be of many uses. We can use our skills to upgrade or replace structures, provide unique tools to solve complex problems and provide insights on how to create the best working and resting areas. Our skills also enable us to carry out basic clothing repair or patches for tents; we make people’s lives better. We also restore old service vehicles for museums. All of these things are a piece of the whole picture. We are one piece of the army’s capabilities and as such, are immensely proud of what we can accomplish and the people we do it for.
Outside of work I
I have a small family so they are my focus when I’m not engaged in work. I have volunteered in the past, but have little time for this these days. I enjoy hunting and fishing, archery, motorcycles, hockey, and cycling. The military is a fit organization and that transfers to my life at home as well.
My advice to others
You can do this. If you are physically fit or want to be physically active, love a challenge and want to be paid well, this job could be for you. It’s not easy. Spending time away from family and friends, missing birthdays and special events, these are some things to consider. But working in a respected organization, the ability to travel, opportunities to develop yourself into a professional and a leader, making friends who you will call brother or sister, these attributes cannot be measured in things like money or anything else of value.