Even as a child, Amardeep Singh knew he wanted to be a soldier. Growing up in a Sikh family, he naturally inherited some attributes typical of the military, such as upholding loyalty and service to the community. Singh’s family emigrated from India to Montreal, Canada when he was just 11 years old. Five years later, he had joined the Canadian Forces. Although his passion for the military wasn’t hidden from his family, his mother had been worried at the time, “not so much that I would be deployed but that I would be away from home for four years. It would have been the same reaction if I had gone, from Montreal to the university in Toronto,” he says.
His journey in the military started in Kingston, where he attended college for four years, attending military training in the summers. Subsequently, he moved to Halifax, then to Victoria, where he was on a ship, training on the job for a naval combat system for a year and a half. This was followed by a posting in Ottawa in a project management capacity, following which, he returned to the coast and was also deployed in the Gulf area for operations.
As demanding as military training is, Singh feels “it is totally doable. There have been a lot of people that have been through the training. So, there is a physically fitness aspect to it and we require all military members to be physically fit.”
Singh considers his role in the Gulf to be the biggest highlight of his career. It was an operation that gave him the chance to circumnavigate the globe aboard a ship that left from Victoria, BC. Apart from the Gulf region, Singh and his colleagues travelled off the coast of Pakistan, Iran, and off the coast of Somalia for four months. While returning, they stopped in Chennai, India, Malaysia, China and Japan. Recalls Singh, “We would stop ships to build relationships, gather intelligence and to deter any destabilizing activities in the gulf.” The destabilizing activities Singh and his team helped stop included smuggling, narcotics trade, and piracy off the coast of Somalia. Of all the places, going from Dubai to Chennai in southern India remains special to him as he is from India himself. Stopping over at Djibouti, a small country near Somalia in Africa was a great experience for him as well.
Though a Sikh, Singh doesn’t sport the turban. However, it is allowed in the military, he informs. “We do our best to accommodate people from different faiths, but you must understand that during operations there are a certain things that may not happen. So it is a give and take for both the military and the members. There are ways of finding out other means to still practice your faith as well as those operations,” he says.
A big believer in collective effort, Singh likes to visit gurdwaras (Sikh temples) during his leisure time. He is also involved with a number of activities aimed at bringing together the various visible minority communities in Toronto. In November 2011, he attended a Sikh Remembrance Day ceremony following the discovery of the grave of a World War I Sikh soldier. Looking ahead, he informs about some events in May for the Heritage month as well as some events with aboriginal communities.
For the past 7-8 months, Singh has been in a recruiting job and has numerous South Asians approach him. “I have spoken to some of them about what the military has to offer. People don’t understand that we have over a 100 careers to choose from, it’s not just operational but also technical, medical—there are occupations in all those fields, once you realize that there are a number of benefits—we pay you to go to school prior to the training. Once you start seeing the things that are out there, you become very attracted. There is a lot of lack of awareness especially in the South Asian community and I am personally trying to talk to them about my experiences,” he says.
The military has various outreach programs to attract the youth from various communities. As Singh informs, “We approach those communities to try and get them into those events, of course, we have a huge mandate and we have both personal and funding. If we had unlimited amount of personnel, recruiters and funding we would attend all events out there. Recently we attended a South Asian Police Association gala in Toronto as well.”
What is the response from fellow South Asian community members to his work in the Canadian forces, we ask. Singh says, “People see it with a lot of admiration to see that it is possible that you can come from a different country, become a Canadian citizen, join the military and go up the ranks. I definitely see that.”
The road ahead is surely going to be filled with excitement and opportunities for this young Canadian Forces member. His own ambition? “One of my career goals is to work for a United Nations mission before I retire. It would be in a peacekeeping mission or a military observer,” he says. We wish him the very best.