Playing double duty: soldier and student
Private Katelyn Taypotat straightens her field cap and rolls up the sleeves of her Canadian Forces uniform.
“So far, we’ve done really well in this competition,” she says. Several of Taypotat’s unit sit in the field beside her, eating their army rations. “We’ve just completed an exercise on first aid skills.”
Taypotat was one of over 80 reservists who met at CFC Dundurn on the weekend of Oct. 1 to participate in Exercise Relentless Pursuit, the first-annual soldier skills competition held in the region in almost ten years.
The competition featured the personnel of three 38 brigade units hailing from the cities of Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and Winnipeg. Chief Warrant Officer Allan Boucher from the North Saskatchewan Regiment said the exercise was a way for reservists to hone their basic solder skills.
“Knowing first aid, navigational skills, and how to take care of your kit are essential skills for survival as soldiers in the field,” he said.
As a reservist, Taypotat leads a double life. During the week, she studies nursing at the University of Regina, but on weekends she works for the Canadian Forces 16 Field Ambulance as a medic. The U of R student feels that her job in the military will give her an edge in her field when she graduates.
The position enables her to work with physicians, physician assistants and nurses to treat the sick and injured in many kinds of Canadian Forces operations and units, a unique opportunity for a nursing student..
Captain Walter Martin, a signals officer with 734 Communications squadron in Regina, agrees with Taypotat.
“Not only does a part time reservist job with the forces help you develop your skill set in your career, but it can also teach self-discipline, resourcefulness, and can help students develop a good work ethic,” he said, adding that students who join the reserves can receive up to $2,000 in tuition reimbursement per year. He also said that there is more to the army than infantry.
“Right now, we are in need of more communications people,” Martin explained. “Many people come into the reserves wanting to be part of the infantry or artillery, but there are many other jobs that a reservist can do.”
“My medic training as a soldier enhances my skills as a future nurse,” Taypotat said. “The two sides of me feed on each other, and being a medic with the Canadian Forces really helps me understand what nursing is all about. It’s a lot to handle, being both a soldier and a student, but so far I’ve had a great time”
Aside from honing their skills, Taypotat and her fellow soldiers also competed for “bragging rights” during the exercise; they fought to complete tasks from nine different skill tests, known officially as “stands”, in a 12-hour period while they covered an impressive 24 kilometres of terrain.
Stand exercises included field stripping a C7A2 rifle, investigating simulated minefields while handling casualties, stalking targets, as well as judging distance and identifying targets. Other stand exercises included the masking and unmasking of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons, communication skills, human intelligence, equipment recognition, as well as basic first aid, a subject that Taypotat and her unit know well.
“I really hope I do well in my studies this fall,” she said. “Being two people is hard work sometimes, but I know it will pay off in the long run.”