Army reservists in Sudbury display dedication and commitment

Commitment. Yes, that is the word that best captures the essence of why young women and men step up to join a Canadian Forces Reserve unit.

Army, navy, or Royal Canadian Air Force, the Canadian Forces Reserves are part-time service positions in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). It is strictly a volunteer decision that can also lead to full-time employment or deployment on operations. They usually serve near their homes but are readied and prepared for deployment wherever and whenever the need arises.

Very early one Saturday morning, I arrived at Sudbury’s armoury on Riverside Drive to meet with reservists both local and regional. Some are here from North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie for exercises at Burwash. At 6 a.m., many were just waking as they prepared for another long day of orienteering and reconnaissance.

Born and raised in Sudbury, Master Warrant Officer Mike Young was 22 when he enlisted in 2006. “I was at the time pursuing a different career path," he says.

He was then working in residential construction. Promoted 2020 and now after almost two decades, this “seems familiar,” he says.

“I enjoy doing what I do. I think if a young person wants to be a mechanic or do welding, then there is training, certification and a job here for them. It is not all just combat arms. There are so many trades in the organization. Okay, it’s not for everyone.”

Young’s role is an interface between the officers and ranks.

“I don’t mind coming in for a weekend of work … it’s been good. I was in Afghanistan in 2010 and this last year I came back from Jordan in November. Our standing strength, with the 2nd Irish (Regiment) is about 60 … between full-time staff, Regular Force members and Class A reservists. We could have more.”

He invites anyone interested to explore this as an opportunity. Some see this as extra community service and many volunteer groups are also facing enlistment challenges.

“We visit high schools, colleges, events,” says Young about recruitment. “As diverse as Canadians are, the Canadian military will have the same diversity,” acknowledges Young.

Check out the updated website material that has videos and outlines requirements. It is very informative and there have been extensive advertising campaigns on television and social media.

What defines commitment for Young? “I really need my guys to show up on time, carry the weight and do the job we ask them to do. They need to meet operational requirements.”

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Capt. Cory Nelson, Company 2nd in command (2IC), joined at 19 and was commissioned as an officer in 2012. “Ensuring I met the suitability there was two years of training and much paperwork," Nelson recalls.

“In the last couple of years, it is no secret we are trying to grow the unit and the whole CF. We have put a high priority on attraction. I am responsible for ensuring the administration of the company.

"We parade fall to spring, a weekend once a month, then summer concentrated training - if jobs allow, and you are available - at bases specific to what we do as a unit or trade. Here we have two platoons. Thursdays and weekends we work on training, skills (to) ensure soldiers are qualified and ready for deployment.

“We definitely have some soldiers who are under 19. Our most senior serving Irish member is John Valtonen (Brigadier General) at Army Headquarters.”

In an effort to be more family-aware, the unit hosts things like a Christmas dinner. “We had a bouncy castle for another event so when I put on my uniform my young daughter, Darci, associates the bouncy castle with being a soldier,” laughs Nelson.

Lt.-Col Kirk Langdon grew up in Capreol and on return from education in North Bay and employment in southern Ontario, he also re-engaged with the local unit.

“I’ve put in 32 years. I started off here as a private and rose through the ranks. I have so many memories.”

Being in command, there is a lot to think about. “I trained for it and I am surrounded by good people. They know their job.”

Pvt. Kaleb DeCaen joined about nine months ago. He sees this as a career.

“I work here five days a week, I am still young (19) and am looking at policing. It took some courage to join, but I was ready to serve my country. I think this was the right choice. This is a very good group of people.”

Second lieutenant in-training Madiha Khan, 24, is a single mum who joined pre-COVID.

“Lack of courses during that time meant now there is a lot of catch-up," she says. "I am off to Ottawa first. Sometimes it can feel a little difficult to balance all life throws at us, but when in, I am dedicated. I want to learn as much as I possibly can. You learn you can do so much more than you think you can. The skills you acquire are so transferrable, like courage in the face of adversity. I walk taller; it has had an impact on my self-confidence.”

Ready to serve

Kevin McCormick, president of Huntington University, stepped up and put on a uniform acknowledging the tradition and values of the CAF.

“Sharing my leadership with another organization was natural," he says. "I served six years as the Honourary Lieutenant Colonel, and then six more as Honourary Colonel of the Irish Regiment specifically. I feel very fortunate to have been a very small part of the Canadian Armed Forces.

“Reservists are an amazing element of what we do. These are civilians who have their day jobs and then give up their evenings and weekends to serve their country.

“I was here to advocate, support and highlight to the local community and to the national community the great work reservists do. These are the individuals who on domestic operations and ice storms go and ensure the power is on, the roads are clear, and water is safe.”

Floods and fires, they are ready to help. Locally, the Irish Regiment is involved in The Edgar Burton Food Drive.

“These are the same individuals who leave their families and go on international deployments," McCormick says. "That is incredibly important. The men and women as reservists are doing double duty. They ... feel the need. When they come back, they proudly talk about what they were part of.”

Connor Hall from North Bay is 18 years old. “I’ve always had a draw, so I joined the Algonquin Regiment. I am out of school and learning to be a mechanic. I would like to drive trucks for the military. I’ve tried to get some of my friends to consider (joining). When I joined, Mum and Dad had to sign off. They are very supportive.”

Having met Capt. Christopher DeMerchant in Ottawa nearly three decades ago, I have followed his contributions to the CAF as he moved to Victoria, to Alberta, back to BC, and now once again to Ottawa. He and his partner have adapted and have done the best with every transfer. He has served for 40 years.

What motivated DeMerchant to join? “Many adult role models in my teenage years were reservists. They made a great impression upon me. I wanted to be part of that.”

DeMerchant has had some amazing experiences over the years: “I have had many great experiences and memories of my time as a reservist. I have travelled to so many wonderful parts of Canada, big and small … in the far north, near north, coastal and prairies.

"The people I have met through my 40 years have filled my time as a reservist with great memories.”

Reservists are paid by the day. Earnings start at $127/day as a Private, increasing to $185/day at the rank of Corporal, and higher as a member progresses in rank. Assignments and other employment opportunities exist beyond the basic daily rate. For a complete list of current CAF pay rates, visit

To learn more about joining the CAF, go to and specifically the Government of Canada National Defence website for reservists at

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, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star