HALIFAX – Master Cpl. Aaron Myles, 23, joined the army reserves at the tender age of 17 because he wanted a challenge.
Seven years later, he has an eight month tour of Afghanistan under his belt and is on his way to building a military career.
“It has had its challenging moments, especially when I was overseas. I definitely got to test my limits physically over there, mentally as well,” he said.
The reservist also faced danger head-on when he was deployed.
“In August , we got ambushed when we were in Panjwai and I received injury to my lower left leg from a rocket propelled grenade,” Myles said.
“My brain just shut down and went into what I was trained to do: get to cover, check myself over, make sure my buddies are ok then return fire.”
His experience is testament to the ever-changing and evolving role of a reservist – a part time member of the Canadian Forces.
From casual soldier to being in the thick of war, reservists have become an integral part of the Canadian Forces, said Brig.-Gen. David Henley, deputy commander for the 5th Canadian Division
About 20 per cent of the troops sent to Afghanistan were reservists.
Henley said there are approximately 3,000 reservists in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland.
“The reservists are your neighbours, your employees, your supervisors,” he said.
He cites the 12-year mission in Afghanistan as the reason why the role of reservists has changed so drastically.
“[It has] really integrated the regular forces and reserve army so that we are at the same standard and do the same things, fundamentally different from what it was 20 years ago,” Henley said.
“What we’re doing as reservists is not simply a weekend event. The reservists, we’re asking them to lay their life on the line from time to time.”
Chief Warrant Officer Peter Andrews, the Division Reserve Sergeant-Major, said reserves are embedded in every community across the country and provide help in domestic emergencies as well as international missions.
“Our soldiers, reserve and regular, were able to serve side by side [in Afghanistan] and I don’t think anybody noticed a difference,” he said.
“It’s much like Canadians may have felt after World War Two – to recognize the sacrifice our soldiers made and some paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Andrews said. “To take a moment to remember and be thankful to live in Canada.”
It is something Sgt. Aaron Miller will no doubt be doing – the reservist of 19 years served two missions to Afghanistan.
“I’m from a military family. I’m fourth generation in the regiment,” he said.
Miller said it was a no-brainer for him to volunteer to be sent overseas.
“I just couldn’t sit at home with all my close friends within the regiment going, to sit by and watch them go off. I put my name in,” he said.
Sgt. Garrow Hill-Stosky, 30, has a similar story – he joined the reserves when he was still a teenager and is now with them full time.
“I was just looking for a job and it was just pure coincidence there was a reservist ad in the newspaper,” he said.
Hill-Stosky said the job fit because he is a very active person. While he notes it was not what he was expecting, he learned to love it.
“It turned out that I actually liked it better than I was expecting,” said the reservist, adding he enjoys the physical and personal challenges.
One of those challenges was a stint in Afghanistan from the end of 2006 to mid-2007, but the decision to go was easy, he said.
“I made the decision when I first joined the reserves that any minute any kind of a tour came up, I would do it. I was looking forward to it. I wanted the years of training to finally pay off.”