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Wanted: A Few Good Men And Women

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Every career has a starting point and for Capt. Mark Levesque it was in 1971. The seventeen-year-old was sitting in his backyard in Sudbury when a pair of jets zoomed over his head. He looked up and asked himself, “Who are these guys and what do they do?” In the recesses of his mind, he was also wondering, “Could I do that, too?”

He found out the jets were flying to the Canadian Forces base in North Bay. He paid a visit to the recruiting office in Sudbury and told them he was interested in a job as a pilot. “Come back next year,” they told him.

Levesque didn’t disappoint. The next year, he applied and the Forces started processing his application. Meanwhile, he was accepted into teacher’s college in Toronto. “The military was something I wanted to do,” he said. “Teacher’s college was something I settled for.”

Then out of the blue, the military called. “You’ve been accepted,” they said. Suddenly Levesque was in a whole new orbit. “I had to change the date of my wedding,” he said. After completing boot camp at Camp Borden, he and his wife packed everything they owned in a big, green Plymouth and headed west. Levesque learned how to fly helicopters and was posted to the search and rescue force in Gander, Newfoundland.

Over 25 years, he moved 13 times within Canada. His most publicized mission was the crash of a Hercules aircraft outside of Alert, Nunavut. “It was the largest rescue attempt the country had ever seen,” he said.

“I just fell in love with search and rescue so I wanted to stay in search and rescue.”

Petty Officer Mike Jensen has a completely different story. While attending high school in Iron Bridge, he met a Canadian Forces recruiter. Jensen applied to the Forces to be a marine engineer mechanic, which combines three trades in one – power engineer, industrial mechanic and heavy equipment mechanic. Like Levesque, he didn’t sit around waiting for a call. He applied to Canadore College’s aviation technician program. “In the back of my mind I knew I was never going to go to Canadore,” he said. “I couldn’t afford it.” Jensen was accepted by the Forces, which subsidized his training at the naval engineering school in Esquimault, B.C. Upon graduation, he was posted to Halifax, where he stayed for five years. In the first year, he sailed to every seaboard nation in Europe on the battleships Saguenay and Skeena.

Jensen said he did a double take when he was handed his first paycheque. “All this and a paycheque,” he said to himself.

The only place in the world he hasn’t been is Antarctica, he said. His favourite port is Apia, the capital of Samoa and a former landing station for American submarines.

Levesque and Jensen now staff the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre at the corner of Brady and Paris Streets in Sudbury. Next year, the military hopes to enrol 8,000 men and women.

“Every company out there screens people out,” Jensen said. “My job is to screen people in. It’s every Canadian citizen’s right to apply for a job in the Canadian Forces.”

One out of every three applicants gets a job. One out of every 10 people Jensen talks to applies.

Men and women who apply are given an aptitude test within two weeks. If they make the cut, they see a medic. If they make the cut again, they have an interview. Their medical test is then looked at by a doctor. Meanwhile, they undergo a criminal record name check, credit check and non-prescription drug screening. They’re then assigned a score based on their aptitude test and interview. According to the score, they’re listed on the national merit board for the occupation of their choice. If the Forces require 20 people to do a job, the top 20 scores are hired.

“Certain jobs require a high school education,” Levesque said. “Certain jobs require a college education. Certain jobs require a university education.

“Officers must have a university education or get one in the Registered Officer Training Plan,” Levesque said.

Applicants seeking entry to the ROTP should have an average of about 85 per cent, he added. Students attend Royal Military College or a civilian university. They’re required to serve their country for a minimum of 12 years, including their years at school.

Once accepted, recruits do a physical fitness test. If they pass, they go to the 13-week boot camp in St. Jean, Que. If they fail, they’re given three more chances to pass.

The final objective of the boot camp is a 16-km march with full gear. Boot camp is very stressful, Jensen said. “It’s all about time management. We want to be able to find out if you’re going to be able to be stressed out and do your job and still operate as part of a team.”

Jensen said most people who walk through the door think they’ll be posted to Afghanistan. But that’s not the case. Of 90,000 current members, 2,500 have been deployed to Afghanistan, he said. Of those, 500 work outside the compound.

For more information, call 705-674-0838 or visit www.forces.ca.

Article courtesy http://www.northernlife.ca/News/LocalNews/2008/06-12-08-forces.asp

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