The Courier

The patch identifying a Canadian Armed Forces member as a trained Sentinel – Photo by Mike Marshall

When Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members need someone to talk to, the Sentinel program is there.

The program is described as a “peer support group” by Sgt Chris Thomas, who is a Sentinel and also Support Platoon Section Commander with the Transition Centre at 4 Wing.

Sgt Chris Thomas (right) stands with Capt Monica Matzner inside the Transition Centre at CFB Cold Lake – Photo by Mike Marshall

“The Sentinel program was started by the padres. It lets members know that if they need someone to talk to, that there are people available regardless of rank or trade and they can point them in a direction to get help.”

Thomas is a new face at the Transition Centre. The Halifax, Nova Scotia-native was born into a military family and joined the CAF after living in a few different locales across the country.

He’s been at 4 Wing since 2007 and started with the Transition Centre earlier this month after working with 1 Air Maintenance Squadron (1 AMS).

He says he sees a variety of criteria on why a member may want to reach out to a Sentinel.

“There’s really not one reason we would see someone. There may be problems at home. Sometimes it’s also problems at work. I’ve personally been approached with someone looking for advice when it comes to dealing with conflict in the office. More often than not, it’s with someone who is a higher rank, so they’d like to know what steps they can take.”

“We’ve also had people looking for someone to talk to because something traumatic has happened in their life,” adds Thomas. “At that point, we can help them find someone to talk to.”

The program was started back in 2007 and has grown to over 3,000 trained members since then.

“The padres put out a call semi-annually, and when they have enough interest they run a course,” says Thomas. “It’s a full day course. Afterwards you have an interview with your unit’s padre and from then on, you’re in.”

Thomas says anyone who’s looking to talk to a Sentinel just has to look for the patch they wear.

“Just approach them. That’s why we wear the Sentinel patch. The biggest reason why the members wear those patches is so you don’t have to go to a website or find a list of available people. Just look for one wearing the patch and say ‘Hey, do you mind if we have a chat?’ “

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