Adventurous and skill building career aside from the Military?
October 20, 2011 6:29 PM   Subscribe

As a Canadian, is it possible for me to join something like the Army where I can learn and do all kinds of cool stuff (like what you see in all the commercials) without having to do the unpleasant business of killing people and whatnot?

My two main issues with actually joining the army are ethics concerns and some injuries and issues with fainting if I stand for a long time. Aside from those getting to do all of the things that you learn in the army sounds awesome.
I want to do things like get certification to drive different vehicles, jump out of a plane, learn close quarter combat etc.
If there is no other real alternative is it possible to join the Canadian army in a capacity where I will never be asked to directly do harm to an "enemy", yet still do all of that cool stuff and not be stuck behind a desk?
posted by dino terror to Work & Money (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
not for free, but you can pay different training courses to do all these things. certain types of firearms training may be more easily found in the US.
posted by thewalrus at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2011

If you want to "drive different vehicles, jump out of a plane, learn close quarter combat etc." Take classes to learn those skills. In the USA, anyway, you can get commercial driving licenses, take skydiving lessons, a judo class, etc.

Please do your nation a favor by not joining the military if you don't intend to actually defend it against an enemy.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're being trained to do cool combat shit like parachute, then you're available to be deployed to a war zone where you might have to kill the enemy.

There are non-combatant professions within the Canadian military, but you'll have trouble getting access to the "cool shit", since a military network administrator is unlikely to need to know how to rappel.

That said, you could join a reserve unit that offers access to some of the cool stuff. When I was in, there were reserve units that jump-qualified all their members, and went on exercises that required parachuting in. If deployment looks likely, you could try to get out quickly to avoid the icky business for which you were actually trained.
posted by fatbird at 6:37 PM on October 20, 2011

Also, you should be warned: being in the military is nothing like the commercials show. Yes, you get to do some cool stuff, but by far the vast majority of your time is spent just being in the military: cleaning stuff, marching, moving things from A to B, and taking classes that are paced for a not-very-educated person. When I was in basic, all the guys who joined because they were excited about shooting things and blowing stuff up... well, they didn't last once they found out how little of that stuff actually happens.
posted by fatbird at 6:41 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I want to do things like get certification to drive different vehicles, jump out of a plane, learn close quarter combat etc.

Maybe look into wilderness firefighting? You might learn to drive exotic vehicles, parachute into a remote area, swing a nasty looking pulaski, or wield a driptorch.
posted by RichardP at 6:42 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

More of the above, please!
posted by dino terror at 6:46 PM on October 20, 2011

There are basically two ways to get the sort of training you're talking about. The first is to pay for it. You can take commercial driving classes, racecar driving classes, and defensive driving classes. You can get certified to skydive. You can take lessons in combat fighting and kickboxing and various martial arts. If you're willing to pay, you can get someone to teach you how to do almost anything.

The second way, having someone else pay for it, is trickier, because the only way someone else will pay for you to learn a skill is if they can later put you to work using that skill. There are many jobs that use exciting skills, including police and firefighting. However, you should know that those jobs are 99% paperwork, sitting behind a desk, or standing around while nothing happens. Most bail bondsmen never get into high speed chases, although chase driving might be a useful skill for a bail bondsman to have. Most small plane pilots never have an emergency, but they will teach you how to handle one. Most police officers never pull their guns or get into huge fights with multiple combatants, though they're trained to do so. Most "exciting" jobs are boring most of the time.

Additionally, if you really have medical issues that cause you to faint in the course of just standing around, my guess is that you would have a hard time passing the physical requirements for any strenuous job like that. Heck, you may not even be able to clear the medical standards necessary to take classes in combat fighting if you have significant injuries or trouble standing up. You should talk with your doctor about what's safe for you to do, either in terms of career or hobbies, before getting your heart set on this.
posted by decathecting at 6:50 PM on October 20, 2011

Also see if you can hook up with a wilderness search and rescue group.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:16 PM on October 20, 2011

S&R is almost always volunteer, but it's also not full time.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:16 PM on October 20, 2011

If you faint while standing up and not exerting yourself, and join a wilderness rescue group, you'll be the one getting rescued.
posted by thewalrus at 7:22 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

is it possible to join the Canadian army in a capacity where I will never be asked to directly do harm to an "enemy"

It's called the Reserves*, I did it for seven years, and it's awesome**. In my short time I: got my license to drive a jeep, rappelled from helicopters, flew in Hercules, threw grenades, fired several types of rocket launcher, even more types of machine guns, learned how to be a tank gunner, fired over $50,000 worth of ammo in a week, got dust in more parts of my body then I ever imagined, drank a lot of beer, had two girls fight over me in a bar, spent long nights walking in total darkness and total silence, used a tank as an office for a weeks, did contour flying in several different types of helicopters, rode around in zodiac boats, see what it's like for tracer rounds to bounce off water, used night vision goggles, saw engineers blow up a bridge, played with trip flares, camped out a lot, saw tons of sunrises and got to hang out with and lead some great people. I also learned first aid, how to clean anything, how to teach a class and how to sleep at the drop of a hat.

You get paid to do it, it's best to do it while you're in school as there's usually courses and long exercises in the summer, then just a weekend or two a month during the rest of the year.

*You're chances of going in harm's way are next to zero because: a) you're reserve, there's a lot of regular force that are better trained specifically to do just that b) there's lots of reservists chomping at the bit to augment the regular force, so much so that it's highly competitive c) the only way you'd go in harm's way is if WWIII kicked in, and the shit really hit the fan.

** well, minus the fact that it took a long time to not have stressful army dreams after I left, and I've got a ringing in my ears

Another option would be NOLS, it's highly respected, has great curriculum, but doesn't come cheap.
posted by furtive at 8:22 PM on October 20, 2011

...some injuries and issues with fainting if I stand for a long time.

Just to echo others, there are physical fitness tests for all of the jobs mentioned. Smoke jumpers, wilderness fire, especially, need to be in amazing shape---the work is incredibly demanding and it's very easy to get caught by fire. For example, a common requirement for Canadian municipal firefighters is to be able to run up a couple of flights of stairs in bunker gear (~50 lbs), carrying a hose in the 75-90 lb range. Lots of people flunk the fire physical.

My suggestion is trail building. Parks Canada and all of the provinces all do it, but there are a large number of non-profits and societies as well. The National Trails Coalition is a clearinghouse/umbrella that could point you towards specific projects in your area. Trail-building is rough work, no mistake, but the stakes are lower and you you are much more free to set your own pace. You'll learn a lot of construction and outdoors skills and do a lot of good too.
posted by bonehead at 8:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in looking into the Coast Guard Search and Rescue.
posted by Yorrick at 9:05 PM on October 20, 2011

Re: Fainting, any military unit, even in the reserves, requires a fair bit of formation work. There are times when you are expected to stand perfectly still for many minutes. People often faint, it doesn't get them kicked out, but it will definitely draw attention to yourself.
posted by blargerz at 9:12 PM on October 20, 2011

You might consider looking into one of the following volunteer programs:


Canada World Youth

Canadian Crossroads International
posted by fairmettle at 4:23 AM on October 21, 2011

They have the TA in Britain, which sounds similar to the Reserves. But if you have ethics issues with the military as a whole, it would be kinder not to join.
posted by mippy at 5:03 AM on October 21, 2011

At least in the US, people who joined the Reserves assuming they would not get called up to active hazardous duty found themselves very very wrong in that assumption once the war in Iraq started. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by bardophile at 5:38 AM on October 21, 2011

I also thought of NOLS. Or wilderness medicine training, which will lead to rapelling, EMT skills, and wicked good campouts for practical exercises.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:00 AM on October 21, 2011

bardophile even under the Harper Goverment Canadian reservists are _extremely_ unlikely to be forced into active duty.
posted by Mitheral at 7:08 AM on October 21, 2011

Coast Guard Search and Rescue.

The Canadian Coast Guard are a great service and do many of the things dino terror asks about. They have roles corresponding to police, S&R, paramedics and hazmat (and more) for marine purposes in Canada. The CCG is fundamentally a civil police organization, not an arm of the military the way the USCG is---this makes for a big difference in organizational attitudes and policies.

However, I don't know that I can, in good concience recommend looking for a career there at the moment. The federal service is going through a pretty large contraction right now and CCG is no exception. I don't see the austerity measures changing for the next four to five years, either.
posted by bonehead at 8:07 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

What a weird, kinda awesome question.

In the States, probably the least easy option is to become an Army Doctor. It's only 4 years of medical school, 3 of residency and then the Army owns your testicles for the better part of a decade, but it delivers exactly what you're asking for.

Army docs (this info is all second hand from a friend in the army health corp) get access to most any combat training they want without, y'know, actually having to serve in those specialized units. I heard a number of army docs get paratrooper training, almost all get a fair amount of weapons training, some even went through the green beret training since they (a) wanted to build rapport with the hardcore troops they were caring for and (b) masochists. Now, unless you're 19 your life path probably has decided for you whether or not a career in medicine is in the cards for you, but there may be other options for high value non-combat roles in the military (JAG lawyers, nurses, PAs, etcetera).

Of course this doesn't change the fact that, regardless of combat exposure, the military is probably the world's worst boss.
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:33 AM on October 21, 2011

Volunteer with the Coast Guard Auxiliary! At least in the states it is like a step down from the reserves - you don't get paid, but you can do as much or as little training and operations as you like within the organization. I've gotta a fair bit of boat-handling training, whale watch training, lighthouse training. Other folks get airplane training, fishing boat inspection training... the opportunities are pretty awesome if you seek them out.
posted by ldthomps at 10:58 AM on October 21, 2011

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