Adventure in the Army Reserve

As both a full-time biochemist for Transport Canada in Ottawa and a part-time soldier in the Canadian Army (CA) Reserve in Montreal, Second Lieutenant (2Lt) Rui Hao Wang has formulated the perfect balance between work and adventure.

An infantry officer with the Royal Montreal Regiment for only one year and eight months, 2Lt Wang is already certain about his future career path in the Army. “I want to continue as a Reservist and do a few overseas operations,” he says.

While living in Ottawa and working for Transport Canada, the 27-year-old’s first deployment was with Operation Provision in Montreal. He was the Inter-Agency Liaison Officer supporting the Government of Canada’s initiative to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of February 2016. He believes that being chosen for this deployment so early in his career was the result of his years of volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross in their first aid services. In fact, he was recently honoured with a brand new regimental award, the Community Service Award of Excellence, for this volunteer work.

There is no doubt in 2Lt Wang’s mind that the learning that comes with serving in the Reserve contributes to his performance as an Emergency Response Advisor with Transport Canada, based in Ottawa. “When I joined Transport Canada, I realized there are a lot of similarities between my work here and with the Reserve: risk management, incident command systems, chains of command, and the flow of information. People think that military life does not translate into an urban civilian context, but it really does.”

He is currently an infantry platoon commander in charge of 35 soldiers and seven staff members at the RMR. “The Army is developing my leadership and planning skills. In the infantry, there are a lot of exercises where lots of unforeseen problems develop and need quick decisions.”

It is these decisive problem-solving skills that come in handy in 2Lt Wang’s day job. “My main task is to assist First Responders with accidents involving hazardous materials.” He has both an undergraduate and Master of Biochemistry degree from McGill University in Montreal.

2Lt Wang’s family chose Montreal when they immigrated to Canada from Wuhan, China when he was 15. “I came to Canada with my parents. They wanted a better education for me and to live in a less-populated area and they could not find that in China. Also, Montreal offered me the opportunity to learn two languages.”

His parents have had very different reactions to his work with the Reserve Force. “My Mom is very supportive. She also wanted to join until I told her that she had to be able to do nine push-ups. She sees the Reserve as a way to acquire new skills and friends. But, my Dad, not so much.”

Each week, 2Lt Wang, whose grandfather was a member of China’s People’s Liberation Army in the Second World War, commutes between Ottawa and Montreal for training on Tuesday evenings and one weekend a month with his unit. “I’ve learned to depend on these guys, which is not always the case in the civilian world. They have become part of my family.”

Aspects of 2Lt Wang’s Chinese culture have contributed to his quick integration into the CA. “Part of the Chinese heritage is discipline. In China, students parade every Monday. Also, punctuality is valued.” But, Chinese discipline aside, it is clear that 2Lt Wang’s desire for sweat, mud, risk and adventure fuels his dedication to the CA. When he speaks of Basic Training, joy punctuates his words.

“We were doing the field phase of the basic training at a forward operating base in 2nd Canadian Division Support Group (Farnham) [Quebec], and our staff said, ‘Let’s warm up for the day. Everyone will jump into the ditch and you are going to walk at a low profile from one side of the ditch to another through the ditch pipe.’ It was in early May 2015. The snow just melted and the ditch could not get any dirtier. It was the first time I had a realization of my upcoming infantry trainings: We will get wet, it will suck, and we will just have to embrace it.” It is important to note that 2Lt Wang said the phrase “it will suck” with some glee.

“My personality is adventurous. I want to do things I cannot do in civilian life. In the Army I am an Infantry Officer where we get to do operations in the field, shoot lots of weapons and work as a team. This is why I chose the Army and the infantry in particular.”

Anne Duggan, Army Public Affairs