Army Reservist handles flood, fire, ice, university, sports, overseas deployment, polar bears and violin lessons
By Lynn Capuano, Army Public Affairs
February is Black History Month, a time to honour Black Canadians past and present who have served in uniform and as civilian employees in the defence and service of Canada since before Confederation.
Winnipeg, Manitoba — Since Captain Ward Lentz became a Canadian Army (CA) Reservist in 2007, he has battled fire and flood, marvelled at the Northern Lights in the icy North, served as a Reserve infantry instructor, and supported security at the G8 and G20 summits in 2010, all within Canada. Following his deployment to Poland on Operation REASSURANCE Rotation 6 with the Regular Force in early 2017, he returned home with a new vigour for living life fully.
Capt Lentz, born in Ottawa, Ontario of Jamaican, German and Scottish ancestry, has certainly “been there and done that” during more than 8 years as first a Regular Force infantry soldier, then as an infantry officer in the Army Reserve (ARes).
A member of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, he currently serves as Second in Command of A Company, Royal Winnipeg Rifles Battalion Group. This extremely fit and ambitious soldier, who has worked with no fewer than nine different Reserve and Regular Force units, doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.
Seizing the day – every day
While he found some aspects of his overseas deployment stressful, that is not the reason for his newly-acquired case of “carpe diem” or “seize the day.”
“It was more because I was gone six months for deployment, two months for workup and my life was on pause,” he said. “As soon as I got back, it kind of clicked that there’s no reason for me not to do the things that I want to do.”
So, he returned to school full time to finish his degree, got back to practising the violin and also joined the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization in Winnipeg. “These were things that were very important to me that I had put off.”
Capt Lentz likes to travel and competes in many sports, including iron man and triathlon events. “I’m scheduled this year for Birds Hill Triathlon and the Hecla Half Iron Man. I’ll be running a half marathon in February, the Hypo-Half Marathon in Winnipeg. I want to see if I can work up to a full ironman.”
He also does rock climbing and his partner is an amateur competitive boxer. Capt Lentz helps her work out, adding yet another sport to his list.
“I started being a Big Brother (with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg) six months ago. He’s 13. It has been extremely rewarding because I can see him developing into a man,” said Capt Lentz.
“I wouldn’t say that I guide him – sometimes he takes my advice and sometimes he doesn’t – but when he shoots me a text saying, ‘hey that thing went well because of what we talked about,’ that is very rewarding.”
Respecting soldiers with diverse backgrounds at home and overseas
The bonds that Capt Lentz has formed while working with soldiers in Canada and other nations reinforces his positive attitudes about ethnic diversity.
Among other career honours, Capt Lentz has received special recognition for his work on Op REASSURANCE as a Liaison Officer working to integrate the Canadian Rifle Company into the battalion headquarters.
“I volunteered to act as the S9, Influence Activities rep, as I have training and experience doing so,” he said. The battalion included members from Poland, Canada, Latvia, America, Estonia, and Luxembourg. He still keeps in touch with some of the soldiers he worked with there.
Capt Lentz said that while he has experienced racist intolerance in his life, it was not recent.
“I would say that within the last five or six years, not at all,” he said. “The people I work with now are nothing but professionals. They love their job, they’re excited to do it; they push the yardstick forward every day.”
He credits educational and support programs such as Operation HONOUR and the Standard for Harassment and Racism Prevention program (SHARP) for shaping new attitudes in the CA that reinforce finding similarities and accepting and embracing differences.
“I think a lot more people really understand where that’s coming from, and it makes sense, right? It’s not about race or colour or gender. It’s about humans, it’s about brothers and sisters in arms. Don’t treat them as only the skin colour that they are, but treat them as the rifle next to you. That’s the respect that they deserve. If you can’t trust that brother or sister to do their job so you can do yours, are you really an army?”
“There’s a lot of strength in that trust and in that family dynamic that the Canadian Armed Forces upholds. We should all look out for each other no matter where we are in the world – and that’s something I like about the Canadian Forces – when I see another person in uniform, I know I can go over and chat and we’ll understand each other. I may not know the brother or sister personally, but we have that shared background.”
How education led to the Army Reserve
A strong student who graduated from a boarding high school at age 16 in Brockville, Ontario, he immediately entered Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario on a scholarship.
“Unfortunately, university did not take the first time, so I dropped out and went back to Ottawa and I was kind of spinning my wheels a little bit, then I joined the Army Reserve in Ottawa.”
Joining the The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own), as an infantry soldier, helped him find his path in life, he said.
“When I left Brock University after one year of philosophy, I was 18, still very young. I did not have a vision for what I wanted to do with my life,” he explained. “I joined the Reserve to give myself some structure. At the time I never expected to end up where I am now but it gave me options.”
He believes his philosophy background has provided advantages to soldiering. “For officers, a lot of what we do in the planning part of the house is critical thinking and logic. It’s about taking the information, analyzing it and then coming up with a solution or plan. So my philosophy background has served me very well.”
For the past several years, Capt Lentz has worked various full-time contract jobs with the ARes, and he seldom worked in civilian jobs.
Currently, this part-time soldier’s day job is taking a bachelor’s degree program in sociology at the University of Manitoba. “I commissioned under the Reserve Entry Training Plan in 2012, which allows me to work on my degree while I am an officer, similar to Continuing Education Officer Training Plan for the Regular Force.”
While he is in school, he serves on a part-time basis with his unit, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles.
Flood, fire, ice and public safety
In 2010, he deployed as a rifleman to Operation CADENCE, which was the Canadian Armed Forces support to the RCMP-led safety and security aspect of the G8 and G12 summits in Ontario.
Operation LUSTRE in May 2011, his next domestic deployment, involved assisting civilian authorities in Manitoba with the response to flooding of the Assiniboine River in Manitoba.
“For the first half I was part of a platoon which was tasked to patrol and then sandbag and water-dike houses in the flood zone. I was a corporal at the time,” he recalled. “They would helicopter in the sandbags because it wasn’t traversable by vehicle. Sandbagging is great exercise. We came back in absolutely fantastic shape.”
Another domestic operation in 2015 found him assisting several hundred Reservists to fight wildfires in Saskatchewan with Operation LENTUS 15-02 as a platoon commander. “The platoon and the company were dispatched to contain ‘hot spots’. This is when the fire is in the ground, burning underneath and we were tasked to dig it up and stop it. It could travel pretty far under the moss and catch a tree on fire, we would have to isolate the tree and put it out. We had had helicopters doing water bombing operations which is pretty cool. We did that for two to three weeks.”
Capt Lentz participated as Company Second-in-Command in Operation NANOOK 2017, a summer Arctic sovereignty operation. “We were lucky to get up there after blackfly season,” he said. “Our task was to work with civilian agencies and the Canadian Rangers to shore up that capability. The task force that I was with had both Navy and Air Force attached to it,” he said.
“I have been up North three or four times. The northern lights are beautiful. The fact that there are no trees and nothing really grows up there, really hits you and it almost seems like another world.”
“We did have a couple of polar bear sightings but nothing too severe. The Canadian Rangers have the primary task of watching for bears during these exercises, but at the end of the day, every Canadian soldier has the training and ability to defend themselves and their peers.”
Family ties and discovering a First World War ancestor
“My mother was born in Flamstead, Jamaica, which is a very small village an hour away from Montego Bay. She is now retired, but she owned a small business and later became a teacher at an adult high school. Her ancestors were brought to Jamaica as part of the slave trade,” he said.
“My father is a third-generation Canadian whose background is German and Scottish. He owns a construction company in British Columbia.”
“Last Christmas during a family reunion, I learned more about my family history, specifically about Henry Vernon from my mother’s side, who served during the First World War. My pet project is to learn more about him and his service.”
The Caribbean island of Jamaica, which is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles, became a parliamentary democracy in 1962 under Queen Elizabeth II. Conquered by the Spanish in 1494, Britain took over in1655. The indigenous Arawak and Taíno peoples were decimated through war, disease and slavery and by 1600, they had almost disappeared. Predominately of African ancestry, present-day Jamaicans have European, Chinese Hakka and East Indian ancestry. Enslavement began with Spanish rule and continued until1838. Today Jamaica is a thriving nation with tourism and mining as its main industries.
Article / February 26, 2018 / Project number: 18-0023
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