As a military family blogger, I find that most of my peers are American. It’s cool, I love America. You have biscuits and Olive Garden so I’m in. I do find, however, that while there are many universal aspects to being military families (Murphy is still deployment’s best friend, even on this side of the border), there are many differences that make us unique.
When asked to write a bit about Canadian military family life for the Homefront United Network, I came up with these starter points.
Canadian Military Families and Our American Allies: Same… But Different
- Quick Cliffs Notes and some words about the Queen.
The Canadian Military is called the CAF, or Canadian Armed Forces. We have the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Why the ‘Royal’? Because Canada, while an independent country with our own Prime Minister, is still a Constitutional Monarchy and the Commander in Chief is still Queen Elizabeth, as represented by the Governor General. We belong to the Commonwealth along with 53 other countries including the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
- Crunch the Numbers.
The population of Canada is about 35 million people. To put that in perspective, it’s a little less than the population of California. Our military has approximately 70,000 regular force (active duty) members and 30,000 reserve force members. That means that our entire regular force Army has about as many members as the NYPD and you could house our entire CAF in Fort Hood. Now, take those numbers and spread them out over a country that is geographically bigger than the USA.
- Same… Let’s look at what we have in common:
Both country’s military families will most likely have to move around during their careers. You call it PCS, we call it Posting. Some families might stay in the same spot for many years, some will move every 3 years or sooner, depending on the member’s rank and trade. However, Canada does not have bases outside its borders that house families. So while some members might be fortunate enough to be posted to an allied base or an embassy, most CAF members will only be posted within the country.
Both country’s military families will experience deployments. Canada sent troops to Kandahar to fight with our American allies in the months following 9/11 and we stayed on until 2011 when we ended our combat mission in Afghanistan. Currently, Canada is involved in numerous smaller missions all over the world fighting, training, teaching, or otherwise supporting our allies.
Both country’s military families have seen the effects of war. Since Canada did not officially participate in the Vietnam war (though the CAF has and continues to serve in many, peacekeeping missions over the decades), Afghanistan was our first combat role since Korea and it had a profound impact on Canada and especially our military culture.
- … But different.
Most (about 85%) CAF families live off base. While we do have military housing at most bases, called PMQs (Private Married Quarters), they are rented at fair market value leaving little upside to base living. Our bases are also, for the most part, open. Some bases have Commissionaires (private security) at the gate monitoring who goes in or out, but there’s no special permission or specific ID required. While some bases have a CANEX, similar to the American PX, it’s very small and carries very little. There is nothing like a Commissary for groceries. CAF members are, as a general rule, paid significantly more than their American counterparts, even with the currency exchange, but have far fewer financial perks.
This smaller, more expansive and off-base life of the average Canadian Armed Forces family means that military culture is very different. Many families here will have very little, if anything, to do with the military or its support services. In fact, since bases are open, the family of a military member needs never have any involvement with the CAF at all.
- Still friends though, right?
My husband has had the privilege of working with Americans many times over the years. As a combat soldier in Afghanistan he served with and relied on his American counterparts the same as he would other Canadians, and has the utmost respect for those he’s met.
There are a lot of ways that our military experiences are different. I’ve learned, however, that just like anything else, our differences only contribute to a diversity that can increase our strength by opening opportunities for growth and learning from each other’s experiences.
So let’s do this military family life together, my lovely American friends! I’ll share the maple syrup and Kinder Eggs if you bring that lovely Texas sun!
About the Blogger:
Kim is wife to an armored soldier, mom of 3, a writer, and an avid Starbucks addict. Connect with her at Sheisfierce.net or on her social media channels!