Signals officer felt well-supported by Canadian Army in the face of personal tragedy

Article / February 27, 2017 / Project number: 16-1008

By Lynn Capuano, Army Public Affairs

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Edmonton, Alberta — As he boarded a plane to report for basic training with the Canadian Army 13 years ago, Captain Christopher Stobbs remembers how he comforted his mother who cried as if he were going off to war. They had no way of knowing that grief and loss from an entirely different direction was on the horizon for the Edmonton family.

Capt Stobbs recalled the worst day of his life and how his military family stepped in to support following the tragic shooting death of his brother that occurred on October 6, 2006. The crime remains unsolved.

“My mom called me to tell me that my brother had been shot and killed in Edmonton. I was newly trained and posted to Ottawa. The unit at the time was very supportive to me and my family during a very sad situation,” he said.

“When I got the phone call, I was just getting my feet wet and they made sure I was able to get home to the family as quickly as possible and they gave me the time I needed to breathe before coming back,” noted Capt Stobbs. “That’s one of the things I appreciate about working with the Army. It is truly a family atmosphere where everyone is very supportive during both good and bad times.”

“The things that happen to you in life have an effect on how you react to new situations,” said Capt Stobbs, now a Signals Officer with the Signals planning branch at 3rd Canadian Division Headquarters.

“I joined the Canadian Army in 2004 because I wanted a job related to what I studied in University, while also doing something both challenging and rewarding,” he said.  He studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Alberta and his degree, coupled with his Army training, has served him well, especially as computer technology continues to be the backbone of Army communications.

Capt Stobbs deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 where he was mentor to the Afghan National Army signals organization. He said he found the tour rewarding professionally, but is deeply saddened by the fact that some members of his team did not make it back home.

“One highlight of the tour for me was that with a bit of my help, my interpreter was able to immigrate to Canada with his family a few years after my tour,” said Capt Stobbs with satisfaction. “He had some paperwork that he wanted me to help him with, which I did. A few years later, he sent me a friend request on Facebook and that is how I knew he was successful in coming to Canada with his family. I was pretty happy about that. He was a pretty good guy and interpreted for multiple tours.”

Capt Stobbs has received the General Campaign Star - South West Asia service medal, the Canadian Decoration for 12 years’ service and most recently, special-event medals for successfully training and leading a team from 3rd Canadian Division in 2016 in the 100th anniversary event of the Nijmegen Marches, a grueling 4-day trek.

Although everyone who completes the march receives an individual award, the coveted team award only goes to teams who complete the march with at least 90 per cent of members, and his team delivered 100 per cent, leaving no one behind.

“We spent months training as a group and had to endure less than ideal weather during the march,” he said. “It was a very rewarding experience.” While in France for this event, Capt Stobbs visited the Vimy Memorial with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) contingent.

Each year, the CAF contingent to the Nijmegen Marches represents all ranks, trades and the diversity of Canada’s military.

Capt Stobbs volunteers regularly in events promoting the Army and the CAF in his local community and through diversity events in the military as the Military Co-chair of 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton’s Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG).

One important way that he supports the CAF is by attending local ceremonies for new Canadians. “I think I’ve been a part of five or six citizenship ceremonies here in Edmonton. It gives a different face to the typical military member, especially for people who are just becoming Canadian citizens, and it shows them that we are all different, there are different ethnicities in the Canadian military and it gives people from other countries a different option, that military service is possible for them as well.” Capt Stobbs has spoken at some ceremonies and sometimes was just on hand to welcome the new citizens.

Born in Edmonton of Jamaican parents, he has one sister in Ontario, a second brother who lives in British Columbia and a nine-year-old son who, he says with a laugh, is “Mr. Attitude.”

“My favourite story of his attitude is me coming home one day and asking, ‘what did you do today at school?’ and he looks at me like I have two heads and says, ‘The same thing you did in Grade Two.’

Capt Stobbs has been coaching his son’s community soccer team over the past few years.

An enthusiastic speaker at local schools, Capt Stobbs enjoys speaking about his experiences for Remembrance Day ceremonies and at other times as well. “I do what I can to reach out to the community,” he said.

“Every once in a while, kids will come up and say they are thinking about joining the military and tell me, ‘I appreciate what you do.’ I am always pretty happy to see that.”

Although he said he has not had major issues with racism or discrimination himself, Capt Stobbs is a believer in diversity education and outreach. “I’ve been a pretty big proponent of DVMAG.  I was a part of it in Suffield and also when I arrived here in Edmonton because I do know others have to go through that, but I have been one of the lucky ones who haven’t had to deal with that throughout my military career.”

“For me, it’s always, anything I am going through, I compare it to the day I lost my brother, so, you know, nothing has reached that level yet for me.”

“The past 13 years have been very rewarding. Working within the Army as a Signals Officer has afforded me the opportunity to work with a lot of great people both military and civilian.  I have been truly blessed.”

Jamaican historical notes

The Caribbean island of Jamaica, which is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles, became a parliamentary democracy in 1962 under Queen Elizabeth II. Conquered by the Spanish in 1494, Britain took over in 1655. The indigenous Arawak and Taíno peoples were decimated through war, disease and slavery and by 1600, they had almost disappeared. Predominately of African ancestry, present-day Jamaicans have European, Chinese Hakka and East Indian ancestry. Enslavement began with Spanish rule and continued until1838. Today Jamaica is a thriving nation with tourism and mining as its main industries.  

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