Peacekeeping in the Golan Heights

By Chris Beauchamp

Two University of Calgary students are on their way to the Golan Heights as part of their commitment to the Canadian Military Reserves.

Corporal Asela Peiris, 22, has already spent time in Germany on a NATO exercise, and is taking six months off from his U of C Engineering degree to participate in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, maintaining the ceasefire between Israel and Syria. Peiris is one of three Calgary students being deployed overseas as Canadian part of the Canadian Peacekeeping mission. Cpl. Les Champ, a history major at the U of C, and Cpl. Sean Grigg, a recent graduate of SAIT have already left the city.

As a signal operator in the 746th communications squadron, Peiris will get a hands-on chance to work in another country.

“I’m going over to experience the culture,” said Peiris, emphasizing that overseas deployment in the reserves is a completely voluntary experience. “I get to meet new people, see a different way of life and do something for my country.

“We’re taking North Americans and throwing them into a completely new environment.”

Canadian reservists are required to devote up to two weekends per month to exercises, as well as summer basic training, said Peiris, adding that soldiers can earn good money while working toward military trades on top of their regular studies. Also, students from every discipline who join the reserves are eligible to apply for an education reimbursement program.

“How many other students get to have grenades in their pockets on the weekend and come back to do their lab reports during the week,” he said, noting there are also travel opportunities in Thailand, Mexico, Egypt, South Africa, and other countries.

Peiris has spent time in all parts of Canada as part of his reserve experience, and advocates it for anyone interested in new experiences, travel and learning valuable skills.

“A lot of people know the reserves are out there but they don’t hear it first hand,” said Peiris. “It’s amazing, being in the military for just four years and I have friends from all around the world. I gave someone a call in the recruiting centre and have never looked back.”

Peiris and the other two U of C reservists will spend a short time learning about the history of the conflict at the Peace Support Training Center in Kingston, Ontario, before being shipped out of the country.

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