National Sentry Program

PO2 Peter Reed served as Sentry Commander for the tri-service rotation of the 2017 National Sentry Program from October 21 to November 10.
Photo: MCpl Carole Gosselin, CFSU Ottawa

MARLANT image tech ‘overwhelmed’ with pride during sentry duty

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

PO2 Peter Reed has made a career out of photographing CAF members and capturing significant military moments, but his most recent tasking put him on the other side of the camera lens.

An imagery technician with Formation Imaging Services in Halifax, PO2 Reed served as the Sentry Commander for the tri-service rotation of this year’s National Sentry Program, marching members out to the National War Memorial each day to stand sentry and guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“There’s an overwhelming feeling each time I march the troops out,” PO2 Reed said.

“I was nervous at first, but once you actually start marching toward the tomb, there’s just such a strong sense of pride, and of the dedication I’ve brought to the service and to my career.”

The tri-service rotation, composed of 20 personnel of mixed Army, RCAF and RCN backgrounds, marks the final leg of the 2017 National Sentry Program, which began on April 9 and ended on November 10. The group arrived in Ottawa a week early for drill and training, including knowledge tests regarding the Memorial and the story of the Unknown Soldier, then took over sentry duties on October 21.

The Ceremonial Guard conducts the training and broadly oversees the program, but it falls on the ROTO Commander to ensure the day-to-day operations and changing of the guard runs smoothly, with two sentries standing guard from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, along with a third member acting as a ‘roamer.’

“We have a third person so if people visiting the site have any questions about the memorial, why people are standing there, what their duties are, and so on, they can have those questions answered,” PO2 Reed said, describing a steady stream of visitors that want to shake hands, take photos and thank the members for their service.

As an image tech shooting exercises and operations around the world, or diving in the Arctic to photograph Franklin’s lost ships, his job in the CAF comes with a lot of excitement. Serving with the Sentry Program, however, representing all those who serve and who have served in the past, is a unique experience. The shooting at the War Memorial in 2014 that resulted in the tragic death of Cpl Nathan Cirillo also weighs on the mind of every CAF member who stands sentry, PO2 Reed said, and members of Cpl Cirillo’s family met with members of his rotation while visiting the memorial recently.

“His family members continue to come here often, just to say hi and meet the troops. I think it reinforces how important this is,” PO2 Reed said.

“Members of the CAF will always say ‘We’re just doing our job,’ or ‘This is what we signed up for,’ but it really hits home when I march the troops up there and see the drive and effort they put into this task and everything it represents.”

The tri-service rotation stood sentry for the last time on November 10 before handing control back to the Ceremonial Guard to prepare this year’s Remembrance Day Sentry Program on November 11.