Naval Reserve evolving into more strategic role

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Crowsnest - Winter 2017 / February 1, 2017

By Darlene Blakeley

The Naval Reserve is evolving in order to fulfill a more modern, strategic role based on augmenting the regular component of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). An integral part of this process will include an opportunity for those currently serving in Class C (full-time) positions, or those who have served in Class C in the past five years, to transfer to the Regular Force more easily.

In keeping with the Chief of the Defence Staff’s (CDS) direction for the Reserve component of the CAF to be primarily a part-time organization, and Commander Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) vision of the Naval Reserve, all reservists Lieutenant-Commander and below (officers) and Petty Officer 1st Class and below (non-commissioned members) who are currently on Class C service or have had Class C service in the past five years, will be invited to component transfer (CT) to the Regular Force.

“The transfer of these personnel will take place over the next several months,” explains Lieutenant-Commander Victoria DeVita, who works in the Naval Personnel and Training Directorate at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. “Once the transition is complete, further CTs will take place through the CAF CT process with the expectation that the opportunity to transfer will be more open than it has been in the past.”

Within the RCN, the intent to take on a more strategic role continues to be the raison d’être of the ongoing modernization of the Naval Reserve structural review. Concurrent with this review is a change in the crewing model for Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels.

Since the introduction of this class in 1995, the Naval Reserve has been tasked with the crewing of these ships. This led to the development of a cadre of full-time Class C reservists who, for several years, were able to meet manning requirements. However, in the long term, this force generation model proved to be unsustainable.

The immediate goal is to transition the current crewing model as expeditiously and seamlessly as possible, so that by 2019 the Kingston Class will be crewed primarily by Regular Force personnel, with Naval Reserve personnel augmenting the entire RCN surface fleet at a minimum of five per cent per unit.

Further, the new Naval Security Team will be a focus for which a reservist can participate in-venue throughout the world. It will be composed primarily of naval reservists and will include a full-time command team to ensure personnel, training and equipment are available for deployment. The team’s task will include port force protection and host nation liaison, along with support and intelligence requirements in foreign ports.

The benefit to the Naval Reserve includes a definitive role in which to augment the Regular Force. As such, training for all occupations has been realigned to Regular Force training where possible, and new policies are being put into place to ensure that every ship at sea will deploy with reservists onboard.

The past demand for the Naval Reserve to crew 10 ships, which was unsustainable without full-time personnel, is now gone and has been replaced with manageable short-term engagements on all platforms and in various deployable units throughout the surface fleet. As well, the CT process is being updated and streamlined to acknowledge and accommodate the training and commitment of reservists when and if they decide to continue with full-time service in the Regular Force.

Expedited enrollment

With the advent of a more streamlined CT process, there is renewed focus on making changes to the Naval Reserve recruitment process. These potential changes mean that future recruits could be enrolled more quickly by shortening processing timelines. The overall goal will be to enroll an applicant into the Naval Reserve within three weeks.

“The aim of expedited enrollment is to accelerate the process so that enthusiasm is maintained and training can begin sooner,” explains LCdr DeVita. “The current process can be time consuming, sometimes taking up to several months to complete for many good reasons. As such, recruitment suffers and potential applicants may look to other options for employment.”

She adds that a quick, efficient and effective recruiting process is crucial at this time as the Naval Reserve is actively expanding its strength, as directed by the CDS and Commander RCN.

For those people interested in joining the Naval Reserve in the future, it will mean a quicker enrollment process, which streamlines the basic requirement to become a reservist.  Once enrolled, further processes will be required to determine the optimal occupation for them, and to allow training to commence.

“For example,” says LCdr DeVita, “a sailor may be enrolled with an enhanced reliability screening – a relatively quick process – and then be subject to a full security screening for their occupation after enrolment.”

While she acknowledges there may be some risk involved in recruiting more quickly, such as applicants found unacceptable medically post-enrollment, LCdr DeVita says that further investigation is under way to determine how best to overcome and manage these challenges.

“It is hoped that these new initiatives will enhance the capability of the RCN, while meeting the priorities of today’s fleet and preparing for the future fleet,” she says.