A Misty Isle of Rangers

  • Sep. 24, 2010 5:00 p.m.

by Jane Wilson-When I started telling my friends that I had joined the Canadian Rangers I had to answer three main questions: “What are the Rangers?”, “Why would you join?” and “Don’t they have any standards?”The first of those is fairly easy to answer, at least if you’ve spent any time reading the National Defence website. The Canadian Rangers are a sub-component of the Canadian Forces whose mission is “to provide lightly equipped, self-sufficient, mobile forces in support of the CF’s sovereignty and domestic operation tasks in Canada”.As for why I would join, there are five main reasons I do anything; because it’s fun, because it’s useful, because I’ll get paid, because I’ll look strangely attractive while doing it, or because it irritates the people who don’t like me, or my mother. Joining the Rangers hit at least four of those reasons, and I would have done it for two.As for the standards, I’m not sure but they don’t seem to have any standards that bar the almost terminally shallow. Now if I had pulled a bank job to buy back my mother’s house after losing it in the final hand of a back room poker game in Reno and then spent five years in the pokey, then I couldn’t have joined (even if it would have unbelievably irritated my mother). When I told my sons that I was going to become a Ranger they were very pleased because Mommy will now have two die-eight hitpoints (this is a Dungeons and Dragons reference which means two things; that two eight-sided dice are used to calculate the ability to take damage, and that I should probably make my children play outside more often). If my sons had gone to the National Defence website, they would have been very disappointed by the complete absence of hitpoints, but they might have been relieved to read that of the four branches of the reserves (Primary, Supplementary, Cadet Instructors Cadre and Rangers) only members of the Primary Reserve “may be ordered to perform such duty and training that is required of them” which I read as “be told to go places where people will shoot at them”.I’ve heard several times the local urban legend (rural legend?) that joining the Rangers means you risk being sent to war and that is really, really far from reality. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the army has people who are actually trained for that. Trust me, I am hugely fond of myself and would not have joined if there were any great risk to my . hitpoints. If I’m making it sound like I had no concerns about joining, that’s not my intention, in fact the whole military side of it made me uncomfortable. Fortunately, when I went on my first exercise two weeks ago I was very relieved to discover there was no shouting, no saluting and no having to call anyone “Sir”. (It’s not that I object to calling people sir, it’s just that the few times in my life I have done so there was an implied threat, as in, “Sir, you will remove your hand”). In fact, the two actual military personnel who participated were very laid back and were not even offended by being told that their “little berets were cute”, not that I recommend you do so. (Note to self – next time remember to pack the emergency back-up personality). As out of character as it may seem, however, I did not have any concerns with the idea of wearing a uniform (probably because 20 years of karate has inoculated me against them). As far as uniforms go they are not that bad anyway, there’s a red hat and sweatshirt and the incredibly ugly “relish” camouflage pants. Even if they’re ugly, I like the way the pants add a touch of whimsy to the ensemble, as nothing says “You can’t see my legs” like wearing camouflage pants with a red sweatshirt. In any case, as I much as I love nice clothes, it’s nice to take some time off from thinking about what I’m going to wear next. As a last word, let me tell you that as someone with serious expertise in the area of fun, going on that exercise was deeply fun. I rode in a helicopter, jumped in the ocean in an environment suit, rode in a Zodiac around one of the most beautiful places on earth and spent hours around a campfire having entertaining conversations. All of that fun, plus the possibility that I might someday be useful in a crisis situation, which could possibly be a nice change. However, if you do want some tips on being decorative in a crisis, please feel free to email me at jane.wilson@hgqci.org.