By Cpl Cyr, CFJSR Support Squadron Cook
It’s a cold winter day, the alarm goes off and the sounds of people slowly waking up starts to fill the tent. Reveille is at 0600 for the rest of the unit, but for us it’s 0400 as it is time to fire up the stoves, brew coffee, and get breakfast and the days prep on the go. As the troops wake up they gradually start making their way to the kitchen trailer, some up and at it and others looking like they haven’t slept in days. Regardless, they all perk up once they get their eggs and bacon into their systems and let’s not forget the coffee! We also tend to make the wake up process easier when we usually have the radio blasting out all genres of music with the lovely sounds of our voices singing along as well. A few hours later breakfast is now over and the day continues with the preparation and serving of both lunch and dinner while the other troops begin the operations of the day. Usually around 1900 we finally get the chance to take a drive down to the showers and get cleaned up and set up so we can do it all again the next day. Exercise FINAL GLORY has officially begun and for the next four weeks the mod tents in the training area of CFB Petawawa will be our home.
When I first signed up for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), I debated for the longest time to whether or not I wanted to join as a cook as it was the trade I had a great deal of experience in, and it was something that I did not want to lose my passion for. I heard many thoughts and opinions towards the trade like it being a thankless job with excruciatingly long hours and how it was extremely tough on the body. On the other hand so many people look at you as the morale of the unit as you provide them with the fuel they need to continue through each and every day. After a long cold day in the field there is nothing better than being able to sit down and enjoy a nice fresh hot meal. I am currently posted with the Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment (CFJSR), and have been posted here for three and a half years. It is a unit that thrives off of the strength and comradery of its soldiers and being able to adapt to the technological times regardless of the theatre of operation. As a high readiness unit, CFJSR is regularly tasked out either domestically or internationally to provide communications and information systems and the connectivity they require for secure and reliable communications between all involved within the task or operation at hand. As a cook I am regularly tasked out with the rest of Support Squadron to provide feeding support to all exercise or operation participants. Being a field cook isn’t just limited to cooking when out in the field, we also assist in many fundraisers, BBQs, and many formal mess dinners for special occasions and holidays throughout the year. Along with support to CFJSR we help support the Base kitchen with their manning. Wherever we are, we are kept very busy as the cook’s trade is short personnel and always in need of new recruits.
Being a cook can sometimes mean long, tedious hours and it can unquestionably take a toll on your body, but I would agree that the same goes for many other trades in the CAF. We are usually part of the team who is first in any given exercise or operation and usually the last to leave. Nevertheless, seeing people’s reactions as they come through the lines daily, knowing that they have a homemade meal away from home makes it all worthwhile. We have the opportunity to not only meet many interesting and new people, we also have the chance of making someone’s mediocre day better, especially when they are trying to cope with being away from their families and friends. It can certainly be a thankless job at times but there is one thing that everyone in the CAF can agree with—no one ever messes with the cooks. That right there shows you just how valued the Cook trade really is. As Napoleon said himself, “an army marches on its stomach.”