Two weeks ago I was down at CFB London [edit: I've since been informed that this installation is now called "ASU (Area Support Unit) London" but I still call it Wolesley Barracks! It provides logistic, engineering and administrative support for all the Reserve and Cadet units in the 31 Brigade region] Clothing Stores getting my first issue of gear.
I was a bit nervous having never been on a DND base while actually a member of the Canadian Armed Forces before and what was I to do if I ran into the Brigade Cmdr in the men's room or something? I wasn't sure where to go and wandered into the RCEME [edit: now apparently just called EME] shop at first. Plus the QM Sergeant was a bit sharp when I called to make my appointment, not being at all happy that I wasn't able to take the first opening offered. Some of us do have day jobs after all. Fortunately it was a very pleasant M/Cpl manning the shop when I came in.
|Trying out the new cadpats|
"Try these on"
They fit pretty well. "Gee," I say. "I thought the army only had two sizes; too big and too small!"
"We've got 4 inch increments now."
He then starts piling up a vast array of olive drab, medium green and cadpat gear; combats (2 sets), rain gear, winter combat jacket and pants, bush hat, beret, belts, insoles, knit toque, gloves, scarf, socks (wool, grey, itchy, 5 pairs), thermal underwear (2 sets) and fuzzy polar fleece sweaters and pants (2 sets, apparently worn under the rain pants in the fall and early spring). 2 pairs of combat boots. 2 voluminous duffel bags to fit it all into.
Plus I was fitted for my DEUs (Distinctive Environmental Uniform- what CF members normally wear in an office environment and colour coded by branch of service) which is what I will wear for most of my CIC career. He takes me into the stores locker and has me try samples on while writing down the sizes. I put on a tunic and he gives me another calculating look and a satisfied nod; "I like it."
Earlier this week the M/Cpl calls me at work to say my DEUs are in. I was excited. Mrs. Boss was excited for me, but then she likes clothes shopping and figured this was very similar. So I went down this morning to get them and have the final fitting on my dress tunic and trousers.
I have to fill out paperwork and cannot remember my service number. The QM Sgt. gives me a stare that she probably saves for errant children and new Officer Cadets. There's more stuff. More underwear. More socks (wool and cotton). Dress shirts, long and short sleeved. 2 pair trousers. A sweater. A top coat. A rain jacket. Another beret. Another belt. Two pairs of dress oxfords plus a pair of drill boots (which I probably won't wear after my BOTC is done). I now have more pairs of footwear than my wife. I have to try on the tunic, trousers, shoes and a shirt and go see the tailor.
The tailor is a nicely dressed older woman (probably Italian or Portuguese judging by the accent) in a back work room with a large sewing table and machine surrounded by spools of dark green thread, gold officers braid and charts of how things go on. She is quietly pleased and tells the M/Cpl "The tunic looks good." So just the pants need a bit of hemming and my tunic needs it's flashes and rank braid. Might be ready next month, or maybe September. It is the summer and she does take a vacation.
When I was enrolled my Training Officer and oldest friend gave me a nice cloth cap badge. Today I got the tailor to sew it on my beret. Needless to say when I got home I wanted to shape my beret.
Everyone in the CF has told me to cut the liner out of my beret to get a better shape. Otherwise the liner pushes the foldover up and it looks like you have a pizza on your head. So I'm about to cut the liner out of my beret.
"WHAT are you doing?" says my wife.
She thinks it's all very silly. Surely the Department of National Defense designed the berets with a liner for a reason. Keep your head warmer. Protect the beret from your greasy hair. Protect your head from the itchy wool. Something. They could save about 50% of the cost of berets if they had them made without liners if we're just going to cut them out.
"But you can't get the right shape if you don't."
So she carefully unpicks the liner from the foldover side and carefully wets the wool. I form it and wear it around the house (wearing it now actually) while it dries into shape. So while I've got it on I decide to play 'dress-up' and put on the rest of my cadpat uniform. Mrs. Rabbitman thought it all very silly. But it's made things more real now.
Of course I notice that my cadpat shirts are older and more faded than my brand new pants. So there's an interesting point for those obsessed with getting the right shade when painting their miniatures. But at least everything fits.
Now we just have to figure out where to put it all. Plus I've got boots to polish.