Father and son join same Army Reserve medical unit 29 years apart

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By Officer Cadet Natasha Tersigni, 38 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs

Winnipeg, Manitoba — When Private Scott English decided to join the Canadian Army Reserve as a medic, he knew that he would have big shoes to fill.

Wanting to follow the same path as his father, Pte English joined 17 Field Ambulance, a Winnipeg-based Army Reserve unit. Not only is this the same unit that his father joined 29 years ago, it is also where his dad, Lieutenant-Colonel Jason English, is the Commanding Officer.

Having watched his father be a proud member of the Canadian Armed Forces, Pte English knew that this was also something he wanted to be a part of.

“I was always taught to help others and being a medic in the Canadian Armed Forces allows me to help soldiers that are fighting for our country,” said Pte English, who added that there were no expectations from his parents to join the CAF.

“I didn’t receive any pressure. It was completely my decision to join. I think my dad was proud that I decided to join and carry on that legacy but it was always my decision – and one that I am grateful I made.”

LCol English’s own military career began in 1989, when at the age of 17, he decided to join 17 Field Ambulance. About to age out from the Scouts Canada program, the Army Reserve provided LCol English the further adventure he was looking for.

LCol English quickly found his niche in the medical field, and on the civilian side he pursued a career in nursing and later certified as an Intensive Care nurse and began working as part of an air ambulance crew.

Within the Army Reserve, LCol English has participated in countless taskings, operations and exercises and his service included a four-year stint with the NATO affiliated Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers, where he was able to see Allied countries’ capabilities via the Combat Casualty Care competition.

Other deployments for LCol English include being tasked on the hospital ship United States Navy Ship Comfort and serving on several domestic operations across Canada, including supporting flood-fighting efforts in Manitoba.

As a Master Corporal in 1996, LCol English took his commission and became a Nursing Officer with 17 Field Ambulance. Just two years later, LCol English made another occupation change, this time on the civilian side, when he joined the Winnipeg Police Service as a police officer, a position he still holds today.

In January 2015, after serving with 17 Field Ambulance for over 25 years, LCol English became the Commanding Officer of the unit.

“As a true home-grown Reservist, it feels great to be the first person in our unit who went from Private to Lieutenant-Colonel and then became the Commanding Officer. I think that is really special,” said LCol English.

In July 2017 when Pte English was sworn into the unit, LCol English went from being just his dear old dad to also being his Commanding Officer. While LCol English knew there might be an initial adjustment period within the unit, it was something he was confident his son could handle.

“We have certainly put enough time and space between us. Unit leadership was involved with meetings prior to Scott being sworn in and they understood and knew that if there were ever any issues along the way, another senior member other than myself would deal with that,” said LCol English.

“I have to treat him the same way I would treat anyone else; he has to earn his own stripes. I don’t doubt that there is some silent pressure there, but he is definitely very much his own person and making a name for himself.”

Pte English has accepted this unique working dynamic and is hard at work carving his own legacy. “People in the unit are pretty good about understanding the work relationship we have. At the end of the day, he is everyone’s boss and I am just another member of the unit,” said Pte English.

As LCol English comes to the end of his command with 17 Field Ambulance and prepares for his new position as Deputy Chief of Staff with 1 Health Services Group, it is the military values and acts of selflessness he hopes he can continue to pass down to his son.

“With Scott or any new recruit, I tell them being a member of the Canadian Armed Forces is altruistic; it is about serving the Queen, the country and the flag. That is definitely hardwired in my DNA. Scott has grown up with that as well. It is definitely a strong part of our family and something that he will continue,” said LCol English.

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