Veteran of CAF talks about Remembrance Day

Brendon Warwaruk joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1990, making him a 23-year veteran of service in 2013. He originally joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a naval signalman, which has become the naval communicator trade.

His current rank is petty officer first class and he serves now as the combat operations trade analyst at Maritime Forces Pacific Headquarters. His responsibilities are to ensure adequate manning, in case of shortages, for over 800 positions within the West Coast Navy.

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When asked what made him choose this career, Warwaruk answered, "When I went to the recruiting centre in Saskatoon so many years ago, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. There were several employment opportunities in the Saskatchewan/Alberta energy sector at the time, but those avenues of employment really did not appeal to me. A local farmer I used to work for constantly pointed out the army convoys that used to pass by on Highway 14. My mother gave me the quiet advance growing up that before I settled down, I should see the world.

"With these influences, and the youthful exuberance of wanting to see the world, I walked into the recruiting centre and wanted to become either a field engineer (Sapper) or a naval signalman. The field engineer is the occupation that finds and destroys mines, builds bridges and is generally the overall labourer of the battlefield. At 19 years of age, blowing things up appealed to my nature. Thankfully, I was selected for the naval signalman trade."

During his 23-year career with the CAF, Warwaruk has served on nine ships as well as at: NDHQ in Ottawa, Ont.; as a recruiter in Edmonton, Alta.; a trades and leadership instructor at the Canadian Forces Fleet School Esquimalt, B.C.; and at the Canadian Forces Station in Aldergrove, B.C.

When asked if there was one tour of duty that stands out as the most important, valued or memorable as a Canadian serviceman, Warwaruk answered, "There are too many fond memories to detail, which is a good part of the reason that I remain serving, but the unit that stands out to me is Algonquin, based on part for an operation I was involved with, and more recently, because it was my last sea going unit I served on, being posted off her in July 2013.

"In 2002, HMCS Algonquin was selected as one of the units to participate in Operation Apollo in the Gulf of Oman. This operation was the naval part of actions in reaction against the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Our job was to hail vessels, search vessels of interest and basically cut off the sea going escape route of escaping Taliban and Al Queda from Afghanistan.

"We spent nine months away from home that year. We spent time at sea training for the operation, travelling from our home port in Esquimalt, B.C. to the Middle East, and time 'in the box' doing our job.

"During our six months in the operation, we captured four persons of interest who were turned over to higher authorities. We were the only allied vessel to capture Al Queda persons of interest during the operations there, and hopefully the reason for this was the Canadian professional sailors and their actions at sea, of which I was a part. Eleven years later, and several promotions later, I rejoined HMCS Algonquin as the senior naval communicator where I served for 14 months.

"The SNC is the most senior communicator onboard this ship with a crew of over 260 persons and I was personally responsible for all communications directly to the commanding officer. This included the four networks on board, the satellite communications which allowed personnel to email home, all radio communications and all visual communications.

"I was also responsible for all network security and investigation onboard the ship and advising the commanding officer on all shipboard manoeuvering. The position was highly stressful, and something I needed all 23 years of experience to do.

"During my time as the senior communicator, I spent over 140 days at sea, and partook in multinational exercises, joint exercises with the army and air force, and highly visible visits in many ports of call. For me, HMCS Algonquin holds a special place in my heart, much the same way the Prairies do when I see the endless skies whenever I get a chance to come back home."

Warwaruk adds, "As a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to serve my country in a job that I enjoy immeasurably. As I have stated, there are so many fond memories, so many experiences that have formed my experiences over the past 23 years that it is impossible to pick one or two, but it is the culmination of all my experiences, all 53-plus counties I have visited that make up the adventure of my career that stands out for me.

"One other way that stands out to me is being a recruiter. In 2009 I was posted to the recruiting centre in Edmonton, Alta., for two years. During this time I spent a lot of time in Métis and Native communities which I found wholly satisfying. The opportunities to speak to high school students about what the Canadian Armed Forces did for Canadians was very satisfying, and a job that I would recommend to anyone within the CAF."

Warwaruk was also asked about his attendance and reaction to Remembrance Day Services. He attended Unity's service in both 2009 and 2010, which was both highly meaningful and appreciated by local veterans.

His response: "I attend a Remembrance Day ceremony each and every year. In 2009 and 2010, I had the opportunity to come back to Unity to attend the local ceremonies. I attended as I was posted to Edmonton, and was the only opportunity to attend in my hometown. Given the opportunity, I would attend each and every time I had the opportunity.

"Last year, I was given the opportunity to attend as a current member of the CAF at local schools in the lower mainland in Surrey, Vancouver and Delta, B.C. With the passing of so many veterans, I feel it is important as a currently serving member of the CAF to allow Canadians to put a face to the reason we have Remembrance Day ceremonies. This year, I will be attending the local ceremony in Sooke, B.C., where I live, with my wife and my stepdaughter."

Warwaruk remembers, as a kid born and raised in Unity, Remembrance Day ceremonies growing up were a big deal. He recalls gathering in the gym and local First World War, Second World War and Korean vets marching in with their medals clanging and the flags raised high. Stories were recounted, and the Legion recognized local kids who participated in their literary and art contests.

He also states, "As a child my grandfather, who served in WW II, never told us stories of his experiences, so this was my only impression of the CAF when I grew up: proud veterans who fought for a country and were the most patriotic individuals I had known growing up. They were all army and air force vets, so I never really had any exposure to the naval aspect of Remembrance Day, which is also remembered in May of each year, during the Battle of the Atlantic Ceremonies."

Warwaruk remarks, "Now that I am serving, I think it is important to connect with the Canadian public. As a serving member of the CAF and RCN, it is important to remember the reason we serve, which is for the public interest of the Canadian government which represents the Canadian population. The CAF is comprised of ordinary citizens, and the most important part of this is to remember that each member of the Forces, each man and woman, has volunteered to serve. Yes, we are paid for what we do, but there are sacrifices that we ourselves make, and the sacrifices of our families.

"When I grew up, there were vets in each town and city of Canada. Nowadays, the WW II vets are struggling to get to the ceremonies and rarely get the opportunity to visit schools. This is why current serving members of the CAF attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, and engage the public that we have chosen to serve. I will be going to local schools here in BC as part of the week leading to Remembrance Day, and attending at the Sooke Cenetaph on the 11th."

Warwaruk closes, saying, "The one thing that I would like Canadians to remember about the service of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces is that we cannot do this alone. For 20 years of my career, my mother and father stood behind me and supported me from the Town of Unity, and were often my only contact back in Canada when I was away. More recently I have married and have a family that keeps the home fires burning.

"It is important to remember that while we are trained to serve and support the government initiatives within the borders of Canada and abroad, we have our families at home that are supporting us in our other roles. For me, that would include being a Husband, Father, Son, Brother. It is so easy to remember the sacrifice of those who wear the uniform, but easy to forget those who support the uniform."

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