Army Reserve soldier, 53, masters armoured vehicle before two-wheeler
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By Private Lilia Rosa Silliker, The Prince Edward Island Regiment
Oromocto, New Brunswick — At 53 years old, I’m doing something that might have sounded strange when I first immigrated to Canada in 2002 from Cienfuegos, Cuba: I’m on an Armoured Reconnaissance course with candidates predominantly not even half my age. And I’m enjoying the course.
When I was a kid, it wasn’t cool for girls in my community to ride bicycles, so I never bothered to learn how. And now of all things, I’m on a course where I get to drive off-road vehicles!
So how did this all happen? In 2018, I enrolled in the Canadian Army (CA) with The Prince Edward Island Regiment (Royal Canadian Armoured Corps).
I love challenges and contributing to my community. I therefore chose the teaching profession as a civilian, teaching for 17 years in Cuba before moving to Canada.
However, the Army challenges me in several ways that I wouldn’t have experienced as a civilian and it gives me the opportunity to protect my country, its people, their freedom and also vulnerable people in other parts of the world. And as someone who enjoys running, hiking and scuba diving, the opportunity to maintain a healthy lifestyle is a big bonus!
This summer, having completed the mandatory Basic and Soldier Qualification courses, I started the Armoured Reconnaissance course delivered by the 5th Canadian Division Training Centre at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in Oromocto.
Armoured Reconnaissance candidates are exposed to the CA’s armoured reconnaissance doctrine and tactics, and learn to operate the G Wagon light reconnaissance vehicle and the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle, among others.
We’ve done all kinds of driving: day, night (stealthily and with no lights of course!), in urban areas and off road. And there’s more training with weapon systems including the C6 General Purpose Machine Gun.
So far, this course has given me multiple skills besides driving vehicles and maintaining them, such as time management, discipline and teamwork. This last skill is super important because the course is physically and mentally challenging and requires teamwork and efficiency to overcome obstacles.
My new host of skills will also come in handy as a teacher and make me even more resourceful with my students and colleagues.
But it has not been an easy road. I was under no illusions coming into this course because of the high expectations required of an Armoured Reconnaissance soldier. After my first time driving a G Wagon, which is one of the workhorses in my military occupation, over multiple obstacles on Base Gagetown’s rugged driving circuit, I joked to my fellow candidates that, “If I can do this, I’ll sure as hell be able to ride a bike!” They got a good chuckle out of that.
The hard work on the course will pay off in training that will allow me to experience exciting adventures as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, an organisation to which I am proud to belong due to its rich history, especially in international peacekeeping.
The training will also allow me to serve my nation as a Reservist and be even more engaged in my community, not fearing to take leadership roles when necessary.
And of course I’ll have cool stories to tell my husband and our son as well as my colleagues and students at Kensington High School and Miscouche Consolidated School when I return home to Prince Edward Island.
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