Blake Elllis/Local Journalism Initiative
While Canadians focused on veterans who served in past conflicts, a Petrolia man marked Remembrance Day amid a military exercise far from home.
Captain Joe Anderson of Petrolia is currently involved in a multi-nation exercise in the Pacific Ocean as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
He joined the air force in August 2013, soon after his graduation from Lambton Central Collegiate and Vocational Institute. He grew up on a farm, just outside of Petrolia and first learned how to fly at the Sarnia airport through the Huron Flight Centre. He obtained his private pilot’s license when he was 16.
Joining the air force was something, he always wanted to do, said Anderson. “Training on and flying high performance aircraft, getting to live in different parts of the country and seeing the world was always very appealing to me,” he said. “The fact I could all of this while serving by country was a major draw.”
He is currently stationed on a ship and can be at sea for up to six months at a time. “It is a bit of surreal experience,” he said about his time aboard the ship. “The normal concerns of everyday life kind of disappear and everyone quickly settles into their daily routines.”
There isn’t a lot of privacy on board, as the living conditions are quite tight and space is at a premium, Anderson said. You get very familiar with your crew mates and he has made a lot of good friends.
Staying in touch with family can be challenging. Anderson is currently contending with a time difference of 12 hours, no cell service in the middle of the ocean and varying work schedules. “I am lucky I have a strong support network back home that understands and we can work around it,” he said.
He did his basic training in St. Jean, Quebec, as since has been posted in Trenton, Portage La Prairie, Moose Jaw, Toronto, Halifax and Victoria. He had the opportunity to train in Arizona and Washington State. He has been deployed twice on ships, which took him to Hawaii, Alaska, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Japan.
“It has been a difficult and rewarding experience,” said Anderson. Often the demands on the Canadian Armed Forces means we often seem to be stretched, he said. “I am trained, able and ready to respond to these demands and I am in a organization which is capable of making a difference when called upon.”