The Maple Leaf
Vol. 16, Issue 02
My Role in the CFDS: Maintaining excellence in Canada's North
MY ROLE IN THE CFDS features military and civilian personnel and occupations throughout the Defence Team. Featured profiles use real-life stories to illustrate the dedication, excellence and professionalism of personnel and employees in their day-to-day jobs under the purview of the Canada First Defence Strategy.
Photo: Capt Sandra Levesque
Master Corporal Steve Belley : Maintaining excellence in Canada’s North
Repairing snowmobile engines on the glaciers of Gateshead Island was the last thing MCpl Steve Belley thought he would be doing when he joined the Army in April 1999.
“It was [felt like] -70°C during Exercise POLAR SOUND and I’d never experienced cold like that,” said MCpl Belley.
That kind of numbing frost was a far cry from the searing heat of Kandahar City six years before in 2006, where MCpl Belley worked as a vehicle technician as part of the Maintenance and Recovery Section at the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team.
“In Kandahar, like being out in the Arctic, you test yourself. I went overseas to test my mental and physical limits. I was glad I saw what the infantry went through, but nothing prepared me for the experiences working in the North.”
Supporting the Readiness Pillar
MCpl Belley fulfills a valued role in supporting the readiness pillar of the Canada First Defence Strategy. As I/C of the Maintenance Section at Joint Task Force North (JTF(N)) in Yellowknife, N.W.T. MCpl Belley leads and delivers innovative mechanical success supporting Canadian sovereignty. MCpl Belley’s leadership and expertise in engine mechanics assist the Canadian Rangers’ ability to project Canada’s military presence across the vast unpopulated lands of the North.
Grew up in a Garage
Graduating from Saint-Therese High School just outside Montréal, MCpl Belley joined the Army shortly after his apprenticeship
“learning the hard way in the school of life” as he says with circumspection. He chose vehicle maintenance in the Electrical Mechanical Engineering Branch because he
“grew up in a garage.”
“My Dad was a drag racer and my Mom used to say, ‘You’re just like your Dad.’” Yet MCpl Belley credits much of his mechanical acumen to his mother.
“My Mom owned a garage and I used to assist the certified mechanics, helping out at the heavy equipment shop after school and on weekends. Mechanics are in my blood.”
Training as a Vehicle Technician
Following basic training, MCpl Belley was posted to Regimental Company at CFB Borden where he spent the following year learning the ins-and-outs of auto mechanics for all CAF land-based vehicles. As a fully-qualified vehicle technician, MCpl Belley reported for duty with 2 Service Battalion at CFB Petawawa. His motivation to work in the central Canadian Army post wasn’t mechanically driven – MCpl Belley wanted to learn English.
“I couldn’t speak a word and I really wanted to learn. The Army posted me there and it was fantastic,” he said.
A tour in Turkey followed in 2004, where he worked supporting Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
“We were doing pre-deployment staging work … forwarding all our equipment that was loaded in Montréal and arrived in Turkey. We loaded the equipment onto the Antonovs that flew into Kabul.”
Following a seven-month tour with Task Force Afghanistan in 2006, he was assigned to 2 Combat Engineer Regiment as the
“B” Vehicle I/C. His responsibilities included inspecting and repairing engineer vehicles for the Regiment’s operational needs.
“The engineers were hard on the vehicles because they were in the field a lot. It was a good posting and I learned a lot about fixing vehicles that had been pushed to the max,” said MCpl Belley.
By 2010, MCpl Belley had just completed a two-year stint as the Land Maintenance Management Programme Clerk with 2 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, helping to manage the 40-person Maintenance Platoon which included Weapons, Supply and Vehicle Technicians.
It was time for a change.
Joint Task Force North
“When my career manager told me that I was being posted to Yellowknife, I was a bit surprised. I never thought I’d be posted anywhere up North. Some people see this as a problem. I saw it as an opportunity.”
MCpl Belley hasn’t looked back.
Maintaining a fleet of 148 vehicles, MCpl Belley specializes in the snowmobile and laughs when he looks back on the variety of vehicles he has covered in his career.
“Going from LAV IIIs to snowmobiles wasn’t exactly what I thought my career track would be, but the snowmobile is the operational vehicle of the North and if we can’t maintain them, the Rangers can’t do their jobs.” MCpl Belley also looks after the dump trucks and ATVs the Rangers use during summertime patrols, maintaining his heavy equipment skills in the off-season.
But it’s the personal growth MCpl Belley is most fond of as he contemplates his time with JTF(N).
“Working with the Canadian Rangers has been awesome. They are amazing and they taught me so much about how to survive in the North. I never thought I’d do the things I’ve done up here and I encourage everyone if you want to live a great experience, don’t be afraid to come up. It’s something you’ll always treasure.”