The military has always been a big part of Canadian Ranger (CR) Sergeant Emily Coombs’s life, so it is fitting that for the past two years, she has chosen Canada Army Run as her big running challenge.
CR Sgt Coombs, who is Patrol Commander for 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4 CRPG)’s Ucluelet Canadian Ranger Patrol (CRP) on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and lives in nearby Tofino, has run the virtual Canada Army Run the past two years and is planning to run her third straight Commander’s Challenge this September.
Both of CR Sgt Coombs’s grandfathers were in the military, and as she runs, she thinks of them often,
“My father’s father was in the Navy during the Second World War, and my mother’s father was a signaller for 30 years with the Canadian Army, so I kind of always have those two people in mind when I’m doing it,” she said.
CR Sgt Coombs was also attracted to Canada Army Run because it gives her a goal to work towards and a good reason to keep training.
“The overall greater good of it appeals to me as well,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t think to do a run for cancer or something, but I would for the military because the military is such an important part of my life.”
CR Sgt Coombs has been serving as a Canadian Ranger for six years, and she has been the Ucluelet CRP Patrol Commander for four years. She is also a volunteer firefighter in Tofino.
CR Sgt Coombs was in the Naval Reserve when she was younger, and she says when she left, she had full intentions of joining again, but then life happened, and she didn’t end up going back. She hadn’t heard of the Canadian Rangers while she was in the Reserves, but when she and her family moved to Tofino 10 years ago, she heard about the Rangers and thought it sounded like something that would be a great fit.
“I realized later that I really missed the military in my life, which is part of the reason I joined the fire department because I really like the structure and being useful for my community and having some really good skills that you hope you never have to use them but you’re glad you have them if you ever do, just that feeling of being prepared for anything and helping my neighbours and my community,” she said. “I just like feeling useful, and I want to be the person who will run to the danger as opposed to away from the danger, and I want to feel like I’m prepared to do that. I’m really passionate about the military in general, and from my experience in Navy and just from what I know about the Army, I think the Rangers is the perfect mix of everything, especially for me being near the ocean. I get to be on my boat and do Ranger stuff on my boat but also do the land-based stuff, and I’ve really taken a shine to the bushcraft aspect and the wilderness survival. I get to do all the things I love to do in one organization, and I’m providing a service to my community at the same time.”
Beyond running her CRP, CR Sgt Coombs has been serving 4 CRPG as an instructor on several different training courses.
She has instructed on the Enhanced Wilderness Survival Training and Basic Wilderness Survival Training courses, and she has been an assistant instructor on the Canadian Ranger Basic Military Indoctrination course. As well, CR Sgt Coombs is in the process of becoming a Wilderness First Aid instructor.
“It’s a way for me to pass on what I’ve learned,” she said. “It also keeps my own skills and knowledge sharp as well, so it forces me to keep up to date. There are so many Ranger skills that are perishable unless you keep doing it, so if I’m teaching it, I’m forcing myself to not forget it. I really enjoy Company- and Group-level work within the Rangers, so teaching on courses and stuff kind of gets me out of my patrol to get a broader context of the Rangers, and I get to learn from other people from other places and things that are done a little differently elsewhere.”
Outside of the Canadian Rangers, CR Sgt Coombs has served her community as a member of the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department for almost 10 years, which she really enjoys. She is a lieutenant on the department, and she says it is a very busy volunteer hall.