Edmundston, New Brunswick — With the new armoury up and running since September 2014, The Royal New Brunswick Regiment (RNBR) has enjoyed a jump in recruitment that allowed it to run a full Basic Military Qualification program in Edmundston for the first time in more than seven years.
“The Master Corporal Charles (Chuck) Michaud Armoury is simply fantastic,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Ron J. Bertin, then-Commanding Officer of RNBR. He is now a staff officer for 37 Brigade Group, 5th Canadian Division. “This purpose-built armoury is very close to downtown Edmundston and it is being very well received.”
On March 14, 2015, the unit conducted an open house with more than 600 visitors throughout the day. The armoury was completed in summer of 2014 and was officially opened on September 2, 2014 with the Michaud family in attendance.
More than 300 supporters attended the official opening. LCol Bertin, who has spent 38 years in the Army, commented, “It normally takes me quite a bit to get excited but when I was on parade and saw the amount of people that were jammed into this new drill hall, it was pretty spectacular.”
MCpl Michaud, whom the building honours, was born and raised in Edmundston. He died on July 4, 2009 at the age of 28 from injuries sustained in an improvised explosive device incident in Panjway District, Afghanistan on June 23 of that year. MCpl Michaud had been serving as a member of the 2e Batallion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group in Kandahar. It was his second tour of Afghanistan.
MCpl Michaud joined the military in September 2000 and served his first operational tour in Bosnia in 2002. Called Chuck by his friends, he was remembered as a mentor to his fellow troops and a model soldier. His awards and decorations include the NATO Medal for Kosovo, General Campaign Star – International Security Assistance Force, and the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.
LCol Bertin said, “He gave his life. How better can you honour a fallen soldier than to name an armoury after him?”
“When you enter the armoury, the first thing that you see is a portrait of MCpl Michaud, with a scroll underneath it,” said LCol Bertin. “We had an unveiling with his family. It’s just a gentle reminder of the sacrifice he made and that’s why we do this. That’s why we’re here.”
“His mother is very, very positive even though she deals with the loss of her youngest son on a daily basis. She is very positive towards the military and the family is pleased about having the armoury named after her son,” said LCol Bertin. “In fact, he was laid to rest in Edmundston. The family has a Canadian flag, a provincial flag, and a Van Doos flag flying from the headstone.”
Gisele Michaud was named the National Memorial Silver Cross Mother in 2014. On Remembrance Day that year, she laid a wreath on behalf of all Canadian mothers who lost a son or daughter while on active duty.
The Master Corporal Charles (Chuck) Michaud Armoury replaced a less-than ideal leased facility located north of Edmundston. The new facility increases the visibility of the Reserve Force in the community, reduces commutes for personnel, and provides an excellent training facility. The new building, which encompasses 1524 square metres of space and backs onto a hillside, was built by Maxim Construction of New Brunswick and has an overall project value of approximately $8.9 million.
“They did such a great job that it just blends right into the landscape,” said LCol Bertin. “We’ve now got a big armoury, as well as a large parking lot in the back. It just looks like it’s always been there.”
The new armoury also accommodates Air Force and Army Cadets whose numbers are rising. “Certain portions of the building were purpose-built for the cadets with their own specific rooms and storage,” said LCol Bertin. The new quarters are a far cry from their previous accommodations in outdoor trailers that were cold in winter and hot in summer.
The first Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) course in the new armoury began on March 21, 2015. It was the first BMQ run in Edmundston in seven years. The previously low number of Edmundston-area recruits was due in large part to the lack of an up-to-date armoury, and so BMQs have typically been run in Fredericton. “This year, because of the many A Company recruits, it made more sense to conduct the course in Edmundston at the new armoury,” said LCol Bertin. It was a huge success, with 25 of the 30 candidates successfully completing the program.
“The new armoury even has a brand-new, upgraded small arms trainer, or a weapons firing training simulator,” said LCol Bertin. “It allows us to train our soldiers so they are already familiar with the operations of weapons before going on the live firing range. We don’t have to waste live ammunition for practice.”
The exciting new armoury has proven to be a big draw in terms of recruitment. “Usually, we’re happy with 20 new recruits a year,” said LCol Bertin. “This year, we’ve recruited 60 new members and expect to recruit another 30 for the summer. Over the space of about a year-and-a-half, we’ll have recruited about 90 new soldiers into the unit, which is just remarkable. I guess that would be about a 200 per cent increase.”
Beyond the magnetism of the new armoury, LCol Bertin believes that this recruiting success is due in large part to Sergeant Julie Cyr’s dedication in her role as the full-time Reserve recruiter in the area. “She is excellent,” he said. “She goes into the high schools and she’s being very visible.”
“Recruiting is going extremely well in the Northwest area of New Brunswick. We increased the effectiveness of A Company, the Royal New Brunswick Regiment by approximately 65 per cent from March 2014 to April 2015 with a total of 38 new recruits,” said Sgt Cyr.
“My experience as the full-time Reserve recruiter for the Northwest New Brunswick area has been a highlight of my15-year career,” she said. “Being part of the public face of the military for this area is very gratifying.”
Full-time Reserve recruiters have only existed since the fall of 2013. “When I started this job in 2013, I quickly realized the Reserve was mostly unknown to the public in this area. People did not know who we were and what we do, and so they did not know what possibilities a career with the Reserve had to offer. I did a lot of educational outreach on the subject,” she said.
Major Sheldon Penney, whose 28 years in the CA have included both Reserve and Regular Force time, is the first A Company Officer Commanding in the new armoury. He travels each week from his home in the Oromocto, New Brunswick area to Edmundston, which is a two-and-a-half hour drive. “Even with such a long drive in front of me every week, I am still excited to get there because of the new armoury,” said Maj Penney.
“It has been my absolute pleasure to be given the opportunity to be in charge of A Company in such a new up-to-date armoury.”
By Lynn Capuano, Army Public Affairs