David MacPherson, long hair and all, needed a job. He found Canada’s Navy.

Wayne Laughlin (left) and David MacPherson present information on the benefits of joining the Naval Reserves, in the Holland College cafeteria on Oct. 26. Jason Ginter photo.

By Jason Ginter

Oct. 28, 2016

When David MacPherson was in his second year at UPEI in 2004, he needed a job. Not a part-time job or summer-job, but full-time with good pay.

He loved travelling, but lacked money to do it. When a few of MacPherson’s friends joined the Naval Reserves and received partial reimbursement of school fees, he was interested.

MacPherson was not the typical recruit, his long hair made that clear.

Today, master seaman MacPherson is a member of the Naval Reserves, his hair short and his dream of travelling fulfilled.

Since joining the reserves, MacPherson has been to the Arctic, going as far north as any naval ship has, on the HMCS Shawinigan, a record set in 2014. His pay is also higher than most students can get straight out of college.

He was at Holland College on Oct. 26 with Wayne Laughlin to tell students about the benefits of joining the reserves.

And there are plenty of benefits, said MacPherson.

“It’s the most diverse workplace I’ve ever been a part of.”

The benefits increase depending on how often you work, MacPherson said.

“The more operational you are, the more benefits you have.”

The job also provides life experiences, he said.

“You learn something during your time in the reserves, then apply it to real-life situations.”

Laughlin took a different route to the reserves. He joined straight out of high school at 16, the minimum age requirement. Minors need parental consent to be considered, he said.

“Right off the bat, your wages are a lot higher than minimum wage.”

For those who wish to continue their education after high school, there are options, he said.

“We fully subsidize engineering technician degrees.”

Studying for engineering or technician degrees while in the reserves has other perks, he said.

“You’re guaranteed a job in your field of study.”

The reserves teach you how to lead people with different attitudes, he said.

“Leadership skills that you learn with us transfer into civilian life. They teach you different styles of leadership.”

Ranging from The Bahamas to countries in Europe, there aren’t many places he hasn’t been. All trips he was paid for, Laughlin said.

“You get compensated for time spent at sea.”

Patch Smith is a second-year student in computer information systems. He had an interest in joining the navy as a child, but now he has other plans.

The reserves rekindled his interest because it allows participants to live an ordinary life throughout the year, he said.

“It’s the kind of thing where you can do work as a reserves member in the summer, then continue your education or goals the rest of the year.”

Smith probably won’t join the reserves straight out of college, but it is always an option, he said.

“They told me you could join from the age of 16 to 60. That leaves time for other things.”

He loves watching documentaries or movies about the navy, Smith said.

“They’re fascinating and you learn a lot from them.”

While the documentaries are supposed to be informative, the movies aren’t all fiction either, Laughlin said.

“The think it’s just in the movies, but some of that stuff actually does happen.”