The Courier

Howard Rittenhouse

Photo: CFMWS

After ten long and interminable years, it finally happened.  No, I wasn’t selected to represent Canada at the world’s curmudgeon finals.  And CSIS hadn’t caught up with me – at least not yet.  Instead, as most of CFB Edmonton was cheered to hear, I was posted.  Where? they asked in febrile interest, eyes shining with intensity.  Where?!  Why, Cold Lake [cue guffaws of laughter tainted with spiteful glee – jerks].

Yes, I heard it all: remote, boring, and small; if you don’t like ATVs, ice fishing, or snow, you’ll hate it.  But I also heard some very good reports – shocking, isn’t it?  But after ten years with the Army of the West, it was inevitable that I be posted somewhere … different.  I had arrived in Edmonton, oh, it seemed a lifetime ago, another age, another altogether more innocent time when I had less grey hair, more energy, more patience, more … where was I?  (I don’t think I had any better attention span, though.)  I arrived and was posted to 3 PPCLI – a battalion then as now of knuckledraggers, gym rats, and junior officers with more hair than brains.  And I loved it.

From that nest of sarcastic vipers, I went to 1 Svc Bn: wrench benders, bin rats, truckers, and clerks.  A more starkly different posting from 3VP can hardly be imagined.  And again, I loved it.

Finally, I landed at 3 CDSB, first at the Protestant chapel – managing not to spark another religious war – and then promoted (all felt the temperature drop that day in June as the nether place froze over) as senior base chaplain wreaking my terrible vengeance and will upon subordinate chaplains.  Again, I loved it.

And over that decade, my family had grown and changed: one son married and lives west of the city, another moved to Ontario and got married in May (that was challenging thanks to COVID).  And so, my wife and remaining son looked forward to the change of place and location, or that’s what I told them.

Postings with the accompanying selling and buying a home (in COVID!), changing communities and schools, and often jobs is recognized by all of us in the CAF as one of the most stressful times in our careers.  And many of us do it on a pretty frequent basis.  But we knew that it was part of the job when we enrolled – or we knew it in our heads.  Experiencing it, however, made all too real just how stressful, exhausting, and demanding it is; how much we long for stability; how guilty we may feel for subjecting our families to regular uprooting and replanting; what it might cost our children in friends and schooling; or what it might require of our spouses in changing jobs – again.

And I’d been spared that for longer than most.  And I know how fortunate I’ve been – in many ways.  I’m a status quo kind of guy, I don’t like change generally.  But I’ve also learned that complaining about things you can’t change is a good way to make not only yourself miserable, but your family too (just ask my wife!).

It’s almost a truism in the CAF: your posting is what you make of it.  If you expect to be miserable in it, you probably will be.  But if you’re determined to make it your home, to see it as a bit of an adventure, you may be pleasantly surprised.

And we have been.  I hope and pray you will be too whether here or your new posting.

howard.rittenhouse@forces.gc.ca

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