The proposed Canadian Armed Forces primary reserve unit would hold a platoon of 40 part-time personnel, who would train and help serve the Northwest if needed. (Canadian Press Photo)

Canadian Armed Forces Primary Reserve proposed in Terrace

The City of Terrace, RDKS and MP Nathan Cullen all support military unit

A retired military captain would like to see a Canadian Armed Forces unit for the Terrace area.

If realized, the primary reserve unit would hold a platoon of 40 part-time personnel to train and, if needed, help serve other organizations in the Northwest, like Terrace Search and Rescue, during natural disasters.

“This would serve as a very good training tool, another source of income and it would give the people pride in doing what they’re doing by belonging to the Canadian Armed Forces,” says Capt. Murray Hamer.

To date, Hamer says he has received letters of support from the City of Terrace, the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine, District of Kitimat, District of New Hazelton, the Terrace Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 13, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross and Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

In an email to the Terrace Standard in regards to the primary unit proposal, Nathan Cullen is quoted, “I think Mr. Hammer’s effort to set a Primary Unit in the Northwest is an idea worth considering and hope the Minister gives the proposal gives it a serious look. We have a proud history of those in the north who have served and many more young people looking to a life in the services.”

Hamer as a Terrace-born resident says he entertained the idea of a CAF unit here since his youth, when he served with Terrace’s Air Cadets 747. He then joined the armed forces in 1973 as a part-time cadet captain throughout the country. He credits his air training with the CAF for a career as a commercial pilot.

When a visiting CAF captain came to the area last year, commenting how ideal the area was for a CAF unit, Hamer decided he’d see what he could do to put his long-time dream into action.

Currently, for someone wanting to join the Canadian Armed Forces, the closest primary reserve unit to Terrace is the Rocky Mountain Rangers in Prince George, which Hamer says isn’t a realistic distance for somebody to travel for weekly training and other mandatory events.

“When you leave your home for 20 to 25 years, you become kind of detached from the area,” says Hamer. “This way, it gives those people who really want to [join] the opportunity to participate as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces on [sort of] their own time.”

READ MORE: Canada extends Iraq and Ukraine military missions to 2021 and 2022

The Terrace Platoon would hold training once a week, led by two full-time lieutenants or a lieutenant with a warrant officer. Hamer has suggested taking on an unused school building as their headquarters and using a local rifle range for gun practice until a more suitable property can be found. Military vehicles and equipment would also be on-site.

Hamer says he knows of about 30 young men and women from the area who have expressed interest in joining the primary reserve, in part for the stable employment, medical and dental benefits, funding for post-secondary education and pensions for those serving long term.

Officers would hold regular civilian jobs but could pursue a career with the military if they wish. The option for deployment to other CAF bases in Canada and overseas missions would be available as well.

“It also opens the door to the regular forces because they have all the training qualifications and standards a regular force person would have, so it would be just a matter of saying that [they] want to cross the line and they can move into a career wherever they want to,” says Hamer.

READ MORE: Terrace SAR, military coordinate joint late-night backcountry rescue

CAF is also looking to entice more First Nations to join the military. Hamer will be meeting with local First Nations councilors to seek their support.

If the proposal catches the attention of the CAF, Hamer expects the entire process to take between three to five years before a decision is made.

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