Going into the experience of BMQ you will inherently be a beginner; it is the first step in having a career in the Canadian Military. BMQ, or Basic Military Qualification, doesn’t have to be scary, though admittedly often times it is. Other than the standard online information, which applies more to the recruits than the families, it can take hours of digging around the wide world of the internet to find any information on what these 14 weeks of your life will be like.
Here are the basics on basic:
• BMQ is 14 weeks long and is completed in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
• The first five weeks are the indoctrination period, where contact may be limited.
• Three weeks of the course is spent out in the field and you will have no contact with your soldier.
• Weekend visits may be allowed after the indoctrination is over but are not guaranteed.
• Families are not permitted to relocate with their soldier during BMQ.
• At the end of BMQ there is a graduation ceremony that families are encouraged to attend.
• Immediately following the ceremony your soldier will be shipped off to their next base.
Now that you know that basic facts, let’s take some time to talk about what the experience is really like from that spouse’s point of view.
First and foremost you need to know that from the moment your soldier arrives in Saint-Jean they are no longer in control of their time. I didn’t get to talk to my husband for six days after I said goodbye to him. No phone call telling me he arrived safely, no text messages, no contact whatsoever. This is not guaranteed to happen in every case but it a possibility that you should be prepared for.
After the first week, recruits are allowed up to one hour of phone timer per weekend. Take note of the words “up to.” I have known recruits who were given the full hour each weekend and some who were allowed none. The reality of the situation is that the entire course could be a virtual communication black-out for the two of you. Don’t let this scare you though, because that is an extremely rare occurrence.
Typically during the first five weeks you will be able to send and receive letters and talk on the phone some nights. Following the end of indoctrination you will be able to visit your soldier on weekends, however this can be a tricky business. There are a number of duties that your soldier could be assigned that would have them confined to base all weekend. Alternatively, their instructors could decide that the platoon hasn’t earned a weekend off and they could be confined to base for that reason. The kicker in both of these situations is that your soldier, therefore you, won’t find out if they have the weekend off until roughly 1700 hours on Friday. For this reason, always have a back-up plan for your weekend.
The three weeks your soldier spends in the field can be the toughest for you. They are not allowed to take any electronics with them which means total communication black-out. My best advice for this time is to stay busy and try your best not to think about it. When my husband was out in the field I wrote him a lot of letters so that he would know what had been going on day to day for me and I made sure to keep busy with friends, family and work.
Finally the day will come when you find yourself sitting, watching your soldier march in their graduation parade. The ceremony itself may be a little intimidating and you may not know exactly what’s happening if it’s your first military ceremony but you will know how proud you feel of what your soldier has accomplished. This will also be the first time that you see your soldier in uniform.
Following the ceremony there is a reception on the base where you will get to meet and mingle with your soldier’s friends and their families. That evening your soldier may, or may not, be granted a few hours leave to join you for dinner in town. This will be the last chance you have to see them for a few days at least because at some point in the next 24 hours they will be shipped off to their next base to report for duty.
Every experience differs during BMQ and you could have a really great one, a really hard one or anywhere in between. Just keep in mind that it’s not a permanent situation; even though 14 weeks can feel like an awfully long time, it won’t last forever.
I know you can all make it through your soldier’s time at BMQ, and I wish everyone going through it the best of luck!