No Looking Back
© 2016 FrontLine Defence (Vol 13, No 6)

All members of the Canadian Army (CA) must pass a visual acuity test as part of their medical requirements for enrollment – for very good reasons. In Captain Rehan Ahmad’s case, this proved to be a temporary barrier to a career in the Canadian Army. “I wanted to be in the Army since I was a kid but I had really bad eyes. It wasn’t until technology caught up [with this challenge] and I had them fixed that joining was an option,” explained the Regular Force officer, who had laser eye surgery to improve his vision. 

In 2004, fresh from the completion of a degree in mathematics from Dalhousie University, Capt Ahmad faced a sudden drop in demand for workers in his field after the high-tech crash in the early 2000s. This challenge, along with his newly improved vision, had Capt Ahmad, at the age of 42, reclaiming his youthful dream of joining the CA.

“A friend of mine suggested that I apply to become a CELE [Communications and Electronics Engineering Officer], which is with the Royal Canadian Air Force, but the recruitment officer recommended that I consider the Army Signal Officer  trade. And that is what I am now,” said Capt Ahmad, who is an Information Systems Security Officer with the Canadian Forces Health Services Group in Ottawa. It was an easy decision, despite his unusual entry age.

With a lot of life experience under his belt prior to becoming a Signal Officer, Capt Ahmad has no trouble finding the positives that came with his career change. 

“There are so many things that I enjoy: the challenge, the opportunity for doing stuff that other people consider cool. Just going through Basic Training means that I have completed something that 90 percent of the country has not.” His enthusiasm does not end there. “I have driven in an armoured vehicle. My head has stuck out of a tank. I fire weapons. All these things are regular occurrences in the Army that I would never be able to do as a civilian.”

Most days Capt Ahmad’s collection of tools, as a Signal Officer, are electronic in nature. “I am responsible for assisting our health services personnel with ensuring the security of medical information. This means I am mostly involved with the overarching security of the system.”

Born in Pakistan, Capt Ahmad and his family immigrated to Canada and settled in Saskatchewan for several years before moving to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Both sides of his extended family, through his Pakistani father and Indian mother, have military ties. “There are cousins in the Pakistan Army and more cousins and uncles in the Indian Navy and Air Force.”

Capt Ahmad has a theory about the CA as an employer ─ one that he has found provides equal opportunities for all. “Now, whenever I am doing something and people are judging me, it is not on the colour of my skin or my gender, but on how I am doing my job. Personally, I have dealt with very little racism in the Army compared to my civilian life. I am very proud of that.” 

© FrontLine Defence 2016