About the Reserve Force

About the Reserve Force

The Reserve Force is an integral component of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Reservists are primarily part-time service positions. They may volunteer for full-time employment or deployment on operations. They typically serve one or more evenings a week and/or during weekends at locations close to home. 

Reserve Force units exist in hundreds of communities across Canada and the world. Most Reservists hold civilian jobs or are students enrolled in postsecondary education programs. 

Find out more about pay rates and the military factor at Military pay.

Classes of service

Throughout their time in the CAF, Reservists may serve on one or more of three classes of service: 

  • Class "A"

    Class A service is the part-time employment most often associated with the Reserve Force. Most Reservists in all sub-components serve on this basis. In the Primary Reserve, this is generally associated with a training level of about one evening per week and one weekend per month.

  • Class "B"

    Class B service is more than 12 consecutive days of full-time service that is not operational in nature. Examples of such service include employment as staff at training establishments, attendance at training courses, or duties of a temporary nature when it is not practical to employ Regular Force members.

  • Class "C"

    Class C service is full-time service. This service may be conducted at a Regular Force establishment position or attached to such an establishment. It may also support routine operations or approved contingencies on international or domestic fronts. This type of service must be approved by or on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff.

Reserve Force sub-components

  • The Primary Reserve Force

    The Primary Reserve is largely comprised of part-time soldiers, sailors, airmen, and airwomen who work in armouries. Primary Reservists are full-time civilian employees or students who dedicate themselves to the military on a part-time basis. The Primary Reserve has approximately 28,500 members.

    Primary Reservists serve in units in communities across Canada which are supported by a CAF Base or Wing. However, many are not physically close to Bases or Wings.

    The Primary Reserve includes:

    • the Naval Reserve (approximately 4,000 reservists in 24 Naval Reserve Divisions),
    • the Canadian Army Reserve (about 19,000 full and part-time reservists in 185 units located in 86 cities),
    • the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve (approximately 2,000 employed in total force establishments throughout Canada),
    • the Military Personnel Command which is composed of the Canadian Forces Health Services Reserve (16 Reserve Field Ambulances across Canada and the 1 Canadian Field Hospital Ottawa) and the National Defence Headquarters Primary Reserve List (about 1,500 members),
    • the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Reserve, and
    • the Judge Advocate General Reserve (approximately 60 legal officers employed on Class “A” and short-term Class “B” in various supporting legal roles).
  • The Canadian Rangers

    The Canadian Rangers provide a military presence in sparsely settled northern, coastal, and isolated areas of Canada. This is done a in areas where other CAF components cannot do so in a convenient or economic manner. Canadian Rangers participate in Canadian sovereignty operations, often help with ground Search and Rescue and, upon request, assist with natural disasters response in sparsely settled regions. There are approximately 5,000 Canadian Rangers who serve in 190 patrols across five Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups. Each patrol consists of a minimum of eight Canadian Rangers. Consult our Canadian Rangers page for more information.

  • The Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service

    The Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service (COATS) includes officers of the Cadet Instructor Cadre as well as CAF members who  supervise, administer, and train Cadets and Junior Canadian Rangers. COATS has approximately 8,000 members. These members are not required to serve in any other capacity.

    COATS trains more than 52,000 Cadets between 12 and 18 years of age when they participate in authorized activities including cadet summer training. 

  • The Supplementary Reserve

    The Supplementary Reserve is composed of CAF members who have previously served in the Regular Force or another sub-component of the Reserve Force. These members did not have previous military experience when they enrolled. However, they do have special skills or expertise for which a military requirement exists. The purpose of the Supplementary Reserve is to augment the Regular Force and the other sub-components of the Reserve Force.

    The Commander, Military Personnel Command, commands, controls, and administers the Supplementary Reserve. The Supplementary Reserve has about 6,700 members. They are not required to undertake military training or duty unless they voluntarily transfer, or are placed on active service in times of national emergency.


The following was the makeup of the Reserve Force in 2019:

Reserve Composition
Male 23168
Female 4532
Reserve Composition
Under 40 years old 70.50
40 years old and older 29.50

Members of the Reserve Force participate in domestic and international operations.

International operations

Members of the Primary Reserve have made important contributions to CAF Operations, and continue to participate actively on the international front.

Primary Reservists who voluntarily apply and are selected for an international deployment are generally sent to support Regular Force capabilities. Reservists have participated in international operations in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa, and in humanitarian crises such as in Haiti and the Philippines. 

Domestic operations and exercises

Members of the Primary Reserve and Canadian Rangers may be called upon to serve, with their consent, in domestic operations. Such operations include providing security at events, search and rescue missions, and responding to natural disasters. Since 2000, more than 8,000 Reserve Force members have served in domestic operations.

International reserve partnerships

Review the International Reserve Partnerships page of the CAF web page for information on the three International Reserve Programs: the National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC), the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR), and Reserve Forces Foreign Service Arrangements (RFFSA).


The CAF website provides information on becoming a reservist, including: 

In terms of Reserve employment, refer to Canadian Forces Military Personnel Instruction 20/04 “Administration Policy of Class “A”, Class “B” and Class “C” Reserve Service” (available only on the Defence Team Intranet). If you do not have access to the Intranet, contact us for a copy.

Support for Reservists and employers

Reservists who are deploying on operations or attending annual or military skills training may require assistance in dealing with their employer or educational institution for time away from work or studies. The reservist’s first point of contact is always their Chain of Command, and then their Reserve Unit's Military Leave Representative. For more information, consult Supporting Reservists.

Two programs support Reservist deployment:

Additionally, the Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC) can help employers, administrators of educational institutions, and serving Reservists. The CFLC helps encourage civilian employers and educational institutions to grant Reservists leave for their service, on a voluntary basis and without penalty. This helps Reservists make important contributions to CAF capabilities.

For more information, consult Job protection legislation.

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