Signals Officer

Job description

Signals Officers deliver telecommunications services to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), especially the Army and command units. 

A Signals Officer is responsible for the operations and maintenance of all communications systems that are not built into aircraft, boats or ships. They may be employed in policy development, project management, systems engineering and network operation. They work with command support equipment and systems that include:

  • Purpose-designed, computer-based information systems that assist with battlefield command and control, reconnaissance and surveillance, and target acquisition
  • The full spectrum of radio systems
  • Electronic warfare capabilities
  • Cyber warfare capabilities
  • Cryptographic and communications- security capabilities
Transcript

SIGNALS OFFICER

IN THE CANADIAN FORCES

TITLE:

SIGNALS OFFICER

IN THE CANADIAN FORCES

I’m Captain Alfa Diakite originally from Montreal, Quebec. I’m a Signals Officer working at 5 Headquarters and Signals Squadron in Valcartier, Quebec.

And I’m Captain Reuben Yadav from Mississauga, Ontario, Signals Officer with 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group here at CFB Petawawa.

YADAV: To a modern fighting force, information is as essential as ammunition. That’s why we fill one of the most important roles of all. Signals Officers are leaders in the four Cs that the military relies on: command, control, computers and communication.

Command and control is what wins the battle. Without that command and control, the soldiers will not have the information they need to do their job effectively.

DIAKITE: And that encompasses a variety of technologies from radio to satellite communications and providing the information systems required for a commander to be able to command and control his troops.

Signals Officers develop, plan and manage all of these high tech systems.

So we need to have an understanding of the tools that are available and it’s up to us to find a way to best support Operations.

YADAV: As an operations officer right now, my influence goes across the entire squadron. I’m responsible for their training, I’m responsible for getting the assets that they need to exercise properly, to train properly and I’m also responsible for ensuring that they’re ready to deploy on a moment’s notice to anywhere the government calls us to go.

DIAKITE: Our mission is to lead teams of Communication and Information Systems Specialists and other skilled personnel at headquarters, at command centres in Canada and overseas and at remote bases in the field.

Battle orders, surveillance and reconnaissance, target acquisition for our artillery and Air Force – all of them depend on a secure, fail-safe network delivering real-time data, day or night.

We’re typically the first people on the ground. When we arrive, often there’s nothing more than grass and crickets and by the time we finished our setup, we have a fully functioning command post that’s connected to national computer networks and projecting communications to all the elements within the deployed environment. And then once the job is done, we’re the last guys to leave, so even though our jobs is more of a support function, we all have that satisfaction that if we weren’t there, things wouldn’t be running as efficiently as they do.

DIAKITE: I would say the challenge, it’s a job that constantly requires you to push the limits and you’re constantly discovering what you can do. You’re surrounded by individuals who are dedicated and committed to their jobs, so there’s a spirit of camaraderie that comes with that and you get to do things that you wouldn’t normally do in a setting outside of the military environment.

YADAV: I worked in the civilian world prior to joining the military. The mendacity of it was not to my liking. I wanted to be outdoors, I wanted to see the world, I wanted to have a different job on a regular basis and yet maintain a decent career.

DIAKITE: The first big adventure was a deployment to Afghanistan. I spent 9 months in Kandahar. Following that, I deployed to the Arctic for 3 months and following that, I was deployed to Port-au-Prince in Haiti, so those were the most memorable adventures I’ve had as a member of the Canadian Forces.

DIAKITE: A career as a Signals Officer starts with Basic Officer Training and then it’s off to the Basic Signals Officer Course at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario. That’s where you’ll apply your classroom knowledge of computing and communications to the administration and leadership of a section of technicians in the field.

From Kingston, you’ll move to a Signal Troop or Platoon for the next stage of instruction in operational communications and command support.

YADAV: Most Signals Officers are assigned to an operational Army unit in Canada for their first 4-year posting.

Well, coming out of the school environment where you learn your trade, you’re given guidelines on how to lead your soldiers.

DIAKITE: You need to be somebody who leads by example and if you’re a person that is able to convey that consistently, then your troops will have full confidence within your abilities and will be willing to follow your leadership.

As you gain experience, you can expect to be deployed overseas in a leadership role and you’ll be eligible for subsidized post-graduate education and professional development within the Forces.

YADAV: My time in Afghanistan with the Operational Mentor Liaison Team was rewarding in the sense that all your training and everything that you’ve learned to date in your career has come to a culmination point and you get to exercise that, see how the big picture works for the military in general and have that feeling when you come home of national pride. It’s truly a great feeling when you come home and you meet strangers in the Tim Horton’s and they shake your hand or they buy you a coffee and thank you for a job well done.

DIAKITE: The scope of the destruction that we saw in Haiti was something that none of us had ever seen before. When we were in Canada and we were seeing this on television, it was a little bit frustrating to see the need and not be able to do anything, but once we were on the ground, we were able to help these guys out, so that was extremely rewarding and being a member of the Forces enables us to do this in a very real and tangible way.

TITLE:

SIGNALS OFFICER

IN THE CANADIAN FORCES

Overview

Working environment

Signals Officers work in all climates, environments and circumstances, from the office-like setting of a base or garrison to service with an operational Army unit, both in Canada and on overseas deployments that may involve combat. Signals Officers may be deployed overseas on operations, or be posted to an international headquarters or to an exchange or liaison assignment in an allied nation.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Signals Officer is $51,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Once promoted to the rank of Captain their salary is approximately $74,000 per year.

Signals Officers’ first posting will be to an operational Army unit where they will prepare for their first leadership appointment. At this early stage they work under the supervision of a senior Signals Officer. As their career develops, they may be employed in administrative and technical fields as well as operations.

Signals Officers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Related civilian occupations

Although this occupation has no direct related civilian job, the management, leadership and instructing skills developed in this position are highly valued by employers.

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Training

Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the Forces, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Common Army phase

After basic training, you will go to the Infantry School at the Combat Training Centre in Gagetown, New Brunswick. You will build upon the leadership training you received in basic officer training in addition to learning the skills required of all Combat Arms Soldiers, including more advanced weapons-handling, field-craft, and section-level tactics.

Professional training

Signals Officers will attend the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario. During this period, they learn the skills and knowledge required to supervise and lead a Troop in tactical operations in the field, applying and building on the skills and knowledge gained during earlier training events. Emphasis will be placed on leadership, administration, and more advanced theory of communications and electronics and its application.

Specialty training

Signals Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training.

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Entry plans

If you already have a university degree, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Paid education

Regular Officer Training Plan

Because this position requires a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a bachelor degree program at a Canadian university. They receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working with the CAF for a period of time.

Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In some instances, the CAF is able to pay for Officer Cadets to attend other Canadian universities in a relevant degree program. Officer Cadets who attend other Canadian universities typically attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months. If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice. For more information, see Paid education.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environment: Army

Serve with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time employment

Signals Officers serve with the Canadian Army. They are responsible for the operations and maintenance of all communications systems that are not built into aircraft, boats or ships and may be employed in policy development, project management, systems engineering and network operation. When employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve with the Canadian Army and command units at locations within Canada.

Reserve Force training

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, the home unit will arrange for additional training for specialized skills. Training for Signals Officers is conducted at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston, Ontario.

Working environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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