Artillery Officer

Job description 

Artillery Officers provide indirect fire support, air defence, and surveillance and target acquisition in battle. Along with members of the Armour, Infantry and Combat Engineering regiments, they are members of the Combat Arms.

In addition to field guns and rockets, missile systems and target acquisition systems, they are expected to become experts with a wide variety of technologically complex equipment including :

  • laser range finders
  • fire control computers
  • communication systems
  • global positioning systems
  • surveillance equipment
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

There are three specialized areas for Artillery Officers: Field Artillery Officer, Air Defence Officer, and Target Acquisition Officer.

Transcript

ARTILLERY OFFICER

IN THE CANADIAN FORCES

CAPTAIN RYAN TELFER:  I am Captain Ryan Telfer from Espinola, Ontario, an Artillery Officer currently serving with the 2nd Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Petawawa, Ontario. 

LIEUTENANT BRANDON McCOOL: And I’m Lieutenant Brandon McCool from Montreal, Quebec, an Artillery Officer with the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Shilo, Manitoba.

TELFER: Artillery officers, we are the experts in fire support.  Many armoured and infantry commanders won’t go anywhere without their artillery support.  Artillery can save friendly lives by suppressing enemies while friendlies move, by neutralizing targets while friendlies approach for their own attack.

McCOOL: In a battlefied context, artillery is the one that gets everybody’s heads down, lets the infantry advance, lets the armoured advance.  Junior officer, here you go – you’re in charge, you’re basically the one that’s helping the battle advance.

McCOOL: Our toolbox includes some of the more technologically advanced equipment the army has to offer, including tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; the Halo 2 sound-ranging sensor system; weapon-locating radar that can track an incoming bullet in flight to protect our troops and target where it came from; and our go-to gun, the M-Triple-Seven howitzer, devastatingly accurate at a range of forty kilometers. This job is complex, it’s challenging, and it can get LOUD.

McCOOL: Well, if you like to fire big cannons, I mean, it’s the only place you can do it. 

McCOOL: You’ll find us on the gunline with today’s most accurate and powerful satellite-guided heavy weapons… in Forward Observation parties with our ground troops in search of the enemy… collecting and interpreting digital data from unmanned aircraft, deployed microphones and high-tech radar… calling in game-changing fighter-jet and helicopter support… defending against threats from the sky… and coordinating a fluid, three-dimensional battlespace.

McCOOL: You kinda see everything, because in the command post, you have the battle map, you know exactly what’s going on.  They’re pushing information to you, that sort of thing.  And you’re kind of the eyes on the ground as well, so you’re the first person that sends reports up to the battery command and which goes to Brigade headquarters, and usually Colonels and above are listening to what you’re saying.  So it’s kind of neat to have that capability. The most challenging part is pretty much the same thing as the most fun part – you’re doing things that you haven’t done before, they’re putting you into a position where you’re definitely out of your comfort zone.  You start using your training and it actually starts forming a decent plan.  And when you get to see it all come together, you realise like “Wow, I just did that”.   And it actually worked out.

MODULE 2 – What’s cool about the job

TELFER: The coolest part of my job is the sheer amount of firepower we can bring in with artillery, with air strikes, and directing those assets wherever we need.  I found in civilian life, a lot of people accepted the status quo and said “good enough” far too often.  In the Army, “good enough” is never good enough.  You always want to strive to ensure that you’re doing the best job possible. 

McCOOL: It’s pretty cliché, but it’s being with the guys.  You make friends for life, I mean, there’s not too many people out there, in these training conditions, that have been in these circumstances or have done these things together.  And it’s just having that innate sense of trust, because you don’t earn that on civvy street, as we call it. It’s just hard to find and pretty much, the military, with the brotherhood, is the only place you can get it.

MODULE 3 – Trade-Specific Training

McCOOL: To succeed as an Artillery Officer, you’ll need to be a reliable leader, technically competent, and – most important of all – a good communicator.  After your Basic Officer Training, you’ll report to the Combat Training Centre at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

McCOOL:  Your training at Gagetown will be divided into three phases. You’ll start at the Infantry School with a phase that all Army officers go through. Then it’s on to the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School for two additional phases of training. You’ll start with basic Artillery skills – how to accurately direct and fire the howitzers over many kilometres, and how to lead a team of gunners to protect our troops and devastate the other side.

McCOOL: In your final phase of training, you’ll learn how to select and prepare a gun position and how to move a gun battery on the battlefield, to bring the guns into action quickly. You’ll also begin to learn about the various radar, sound-ranging systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs used by the Artillery for Surveillance and Target Acquisition.

MODULE 4 – Your First Posting

McCOOL:  When you complete your courses at Gagetown, you’ll be assigned to one of the units of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. You may start out as a troop commander, leading a team of about thirty gunners working on the guns. Or you could be put in charge of a Surveillance and Target Acquisition Troop, with 25 gunners manning radar, acoustic weapon-locating systems or UAVs.

McCOOL: From day 1, I showed up, I was in charge of just over 40 troops.  From day 1.  A new lieutenant to the regiment, here you go.  These are your troops.  So, brand new to the regiment, first time out in the field with the regiment, I’m the guy calling the fire.  That means I’m getting orders from the Forward Observers but at the same time, I’m the guy sending the orders to the guns.

McCOOL:  As your career progresses, you’ll undergo specialized training to become a Forward Observation Officer and may also become a Forward Air Controller, out on the front lines with the Infantry and the Armour, coordinating the Artillery and fast air support they need to get their job done.

TELFER: As soon as I know where an enemy is located, we call in the fire mission.  If I have eyes on, I can then direct that artillery fire and ensure them hitting the target.  If I don’t have eyes on, infantry or armoured on the scene can relay information to me, allow me to correct fire.  So we just ensure that the maximum amount of effects are being directed onto the target.

McCOOL: You could also specialize in Airspace Coordination, providing aircraft the three-dimensional information they need to be able to fly safely and effectively in the battlespace.

MODULE 5 – Testimonials

TELFER: For me personally, controlling a jet who’s dropping a 2000-pound bomb on a target, sometimes you’ll have an aircraft coming in, you’ll have 10 seconds to ensure that he’s on the proper target.  So that intensity and that speed… the most exciting task that I’ve done to date.

McCOOL: It really is being outside, getting the opportunity to travel. It’s also knowing that you’re helping somebody, like, whether it’s combat or just domestic operations – for example we were involved with the Portage La Prairie floods here in Manitoba.  It was actually exciting to get on the wall and know that you’re actually doing something that’s helping people. You know you’re making a difference at the end of the day, so you’re not really just showing up to work and trying to make money.  You’re actually doing something you enjoy and you’re doing something that’s actually worthwhile for the community.

TELFER: I always took great pride in being Canadian and seeing the contributions that the Canadian military made worldwide.  I wanted to be part of it.

TITLE:

ARTILLERY OFFICER

IN THE CANADIAN FORCES

Overview

Working environment

An Artillery Officer can be called upon to serve in any kind of terrain – Arctic tundra, tropical jungle, desert, mountains, urban complex – and in any kind of climate. Artillery Officers are deployed overseas on operational missions and in Canada in support of civil authorities in cases of national emergency. Initially, they are posted to one of five Artillery regiments:

  • 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Shilo, Manitoba
  • 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Petawawa, Ontario
  • 5e Régiment d’artillerie légère du Canada, 5e Groupe brigade du Canada, Valcartier, Quebec
  • W Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery School, Combat Training Centre, Gagetown, New Brunswick
  • 4th Air Defence Regiment, Moncton and Gagetown, New Brunswick

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Artillery 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. Artillery Officers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

The Field Artillery Officer is assigned as a Gun Troop Commander leading 30 soldiers. In an Air Defence Unit, the Artillery Officer is an Air Defence Anti-Tank Systems Troop Commander leading 40 soldiers. Surveillance and Target acquisition sub-units have many capabilities, but the Artillery Officer commands a troop of Acoustic Weapon Locating Sensors, Weapon Locating Radars or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles leading 20 soldiers.

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 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), 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

Further courses at the Royal Canadian Artillery School, also at Gagetown, introduce you to the duties required of a leader in the Artillery. You will develop your leadership skills while learning the basic duties of an Air Defence Officer, a Field Artillery Officer, and a Target Acquisition Officer. This training includes reconnaissance and deployment of a wide variety of equipment including air defense anti-tank system, indirect fire artillery equipment, radars and unmanned aerial vehicles.

In the final phase of training, Field Defence candidates develop and refine fire-discipline skills, and learn to move a gun battery on the battlefield, to bring guns into action quickly, and to select and prepare a gun position. Air Defence candidates learn about command and control of Air Defence Units in the field.

Specialty training

Selected Artillery Officers may be trained as Troop Commanders for Air Defence or Surveillance and Target Acquisition. Air Defence Troop Commander candidates learn about reconnaissance and deployment of the Air Defence Anti-Tank System, as well as command and control of Air Defence Units in the field. A Surveillance and Target Acquisition Troop Commander will learn how to deploy a variety of systems including Acoustic Sensors, Weapon Locating Radar and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, as well as how to use these systems to provide surveillance of an operational area and locate possible targets for engagement by other assets.

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Entry plans

Direct entry

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 Forces 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

Artillery Officers serve with the Canadian Army. Along with members of the Armour, Infantry and Combat Engineering regiments, they are members of the Combat Arms team and they provide indirect fire support, air defence, and surveillance and target acquisition in battle. When employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis Artillery Officers usually serve with Artillery units at CAF 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. Artillery Officers train to their Combat Arms qualification at the Royal Canadian Artillery School, at Gagetown, New Brunswick.

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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