Photo: Julia Vodyanyuk
A soldier surveys the terrain while an officer supervises.


By: Julia Vodyanyuk

Algonquin students and graduates played a role in a battle stimulation by 33 Brigade Group in Petawawa last weekend.

While I – one of four Algonquin journalism students – was among the cast of characters made up of 697 army reservists, I was surprised to come across so many of them who had a link to my school.

My group arrived at 1100 hours and was promptly given helmets and ballistic eyewear.

At first I was startled by the sight of armed soldiers hiding in the grass, I never thought it would be something I’d get used to so quickly.

Cpl. Dave Murawsky was one of the solders I met after rehearsals during a short break on the pine needles at the main command post.

Murawsky graduated the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College collaborative nursing program and participates with the reserves part-time, “A lot of your tuition is reimbursed with joining the forces,” he said. With rising tuition costs, for students, it’s huge incentive to join.

Murawsky talks about potentially joining the medical team with the forces in the future.

“There is the potential for full-time employment here with being a medic,” he said, “it’s also a great chance for outdoor experience.”

Most of the people I talked to were almost strictly students, most in public health, safety or service programs at their schools. There is a lot of opportunity in the forces regardless of your background in education.

Sig. Brendan Rivet, second year Algoqnuin police foundations student tells me about finding a balance.

“You have to be a master of time management when you’re in the forces,” he said, “you’ve got to find the balance between seriousness and joking around to keep yourself sane,” he tells me that the forces has helped him learn to be disciplined as well.

As I met more people, I was surprised to find out how many different reasons soldiers had for joining.

“I joined the forces when I was 16,” said Spr. Kevin Boa, second year Algonquin police foundations student said, “I was in cadets for 8 years before I decided to join, my family has history with the military.”

Boa is an engineer with the forces, his job is to operate boats, build necessary bridges and apparatuses for the troops use as well as being the brains of an operation.

On the second day at 0600 hours, the final, much anticipated battle began.

Although we were graciously allowed to sleep in the command post, we were up at the crack of dawn with no mercy eating food out of sealed packets and cardboard boxes which the soldiers call rations.

Very quickly the sound of guns and artillery shells engulfed our senses, something none of us had really experienced before.

After watching the battle unfold I met another gentleman whom to my surprise was another former Algonquin student.

Cpl. Alec Altoft was in the Algonquin electro-mechanical engineering program before he left to pursue his career with the forces.

“I was in the robotics program there,” Altoft said, pausing every so often to listen to his radio, “it just wasn’t for me, I wanted to do something else, “ said Altoft, a licensed pilot, hopes to one day fly for the military.

He explains that although school didn’t work out for him, he’s happy doing this as a job.

Among the dozens of students I had met from Algonquin, it was clear that their backgrounds created a rich mosaic that made up the reserves.

Students who studied everything from policing to photography were all here with a common love for the forces.

When the smoke on the battlefield finally settled and the after action review was done, I found myself hungry to learn more about the brave men and women who joined the reserves in the first place.