By RYAN KING
Brian Osmond is a retired Canadian Forces veteran who served for 32 years, having signed up in 1979. Originally from Port aux Basques, Osmond is now the Fire Chief of the Codroy Valley Volunteer Fire Department.
When he first left the province to pursue his career with the Navy, it was a whole new adventure.
“I had a job in Port aux Basques when I left there to join the military. Actually, it was at Shoprite’s at that time. Now it’s Colemans. I left there and I proceeded off to a place I’d never been. I got to Halifax. I’d never been up there at that point in my life. I flew out of Deer Lake to Halifax, then I took a bus from there down to Cornwallis, down in Annapolis Valley,” recalls Osmond. “I think it was the Labour Day weekend of ‘79 that I went to Cornwallis.”
Osmond was the first in his family to join the military, but more soon followed.
“My dad and my uncles, they was all involved with the Cadets – my uncle was. And I joined the military and then after that my sister joined, and I had a cousin join. There was a quite a few of us after that that were actually in the military. And some of my cousins were actually Cadet leaders and then they married into their families. They’re military families now. So I started off being the first one.”
Osmond’s family were supportive when he enlisted.
“They were excited, the same as I was. It was a new adventure and I joined the Navy. I was in Cornwallis for 11 weeks and after we completed our basic training in Cornwallis, we went to CFB Halifax,” said Osmond. “I did my trades training and my sea environmental course to go on the ships. Then my first ship I was posted to was HMCS Protector.”
Osmond was trained as an electrician, which involved a lot of school work and hands on practical instruction on the ships.
“All my career years in the military, I was going back and forth to school. So someone getting out to join the military and depending on the trades, you still got lots of time at school.”
Osmond spent 26 years in Halifax working on different ships.
“I was on the Protector, Preserver, the Skeena, Moresby, the Charlottetown, and back and forth to the ships. But I also had some postings to shore, like I was at the firefighting school,” explained Osmond. “To make sure that you know about fires on ships. I was an instructor in the school twice. I was at the fleet diving unit for another posting. And then I was at FMG of Cape Scott, which is the maintenance facility for all the ships. We had sea-time, and we had shore-time.”
His electrical skills were put to the test during the Gulf War, which he was involved with indirectly.
“When I was at Cape Scott, the Gulf War broke out and we sent ships over there. The department I was with at Cape Scott, we had to go over to Augusta, Sicily, to do some fine tuning of the degaussing system on the ship. It’s a system on there for magnetic warfare. So we had to go over that – actually went over four times – depending on when the ships left. We had to fine tune the ships to the closest area closest to the Gulf War, where the Gulf War was going on, so the magnetic fields would be working properly,” says Osmond. “The Italian military had a base there, and that was their degaussing range area, which we worked with the Italians to make sure our ships were good. The ships would come in and we would do our work and then we come back to Canada.”
Osmond explained that he did not know what to expect when he joined the military, but he said it turned out to be fun.
“When I finished all my training and went to the ships and started, we spent a lot of time away. Like the ships today don’t spend as much time away from home port as we did in the 80s and early 90s. Like we would be gone from January, February, up till May, and then we’d go again in June till July. Then we’d come back, and we’d have our vacation break – we used to say we’d go on leave. We’d leave there and we would go too in September, we would head off to Europe, and we’d get back from there in the latter part of October, from our first week in November, then we’d be home for a few weeks, then we’d head down south for a couple weeks before Christmas and come back for Christmas, and that was the cycle of the big exercises that we used to participate in all year round. We used to leave in February and come back in May, so we didn’t see many winters in the 80s and early 90s.”
What Osmond misses most about the military life is the people.
“The ships are all the same, but it’s the people that you miss. Our trade was electrician and, of course, we get together in the reunion once a year. Sometimes we try to get twice a year, but because of COVID-19 we haven’t met in the last two years, I would say now, and that’s always up in Halifax. So the legion there is the location that we have it every year, in Lower Sackville. Almost every year you can go and see who is gone, or who’s missing. And we have a guy that looks after giving us notices of fellow shipmates and electricians that pass away.”
Osmond does not mind sharing his experiences in the military with those that are interested.
“I don’t mind. I tell them all the stories that we’ve done. Now some are good and some are bad․ Even though I didn’t go to any of the Gulf Wars. Like, I was involved with the Swissair plane that went off of Peggy’s Cove. I was nine days in there,” shares Osmond. “I passed that on to people. And then with 9/11 in New York City, I was on the base defense team and we were deployed to tighten security around all the military establishments in Halifax. And then when I went on one of the ships, I had the opportunity to go to New York City. They have a thing down there called Fleet Week and they honoured the military people, and we went down, and I had the opportunity to stand at Ground Zero.”
Osmond was also involved in establishing the War Memorial in the Codroy Valley, where there will be services again this year on Thursday, Nov. 11.
“When I first came home, there was no War Memorial in the Codroy Valley and one of the guys in the area took a leave, and we formed a committee.”
The committee managed to raise the necessary funds, and in September 2016 the first service was held at the War Memorial they successfully built.
“We had our first Remembrance Day service that November.”
No matter what the weather or the circumstances, services have been held there ever since.
“Even with COVID we got permission through the government to have our war memorial service at the site,” says Osmond. “Unfortunately, the last couple of years, the Cadets couldn’t attend the date, but we have quite a few veterans in the area, and people in the area, and surrounding area. Our service is growing every year. We have a large crowd. And we have veterans, or families of veterans, every year laying wreaths for in memory of their family members. It’s a short service, but it’s a great service.”