A Kwalikum Secondary School graduate is in Poland with the Canadian Armed Forces, helping Ukrainian refugees forced to flee their homes due to the Russian invasion.
Maj. Ryan Pridmore, a company commander with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was deployed to the Warsaw area on a humanitarian mission in mid-April, to provide assistance at refugee reception centres. The troops he leads are moving baggage, answering questions and providing security and access control within the centres.
“The surprising thing is actually just how resilient these people are,” Pridmore said. “A lot of these people have ostensibly lost everything and are now fleeing their homes. They’re absolutely a determined group of people. I think that’s one of the most amazing things to see about them.”
Pridmore, whose parents still reside in Qualicum Beach, comes back to visit at least once a year in the summer or for Christmas. His wife is a civilian psychologist who serves members of the Canadian Armed Forces. They have a two-year-old son and another son who is three weeks old. Pridmore said his parents are understandably concerned when he deploys, but understand the profession is more than just a paycheque to him.
He is one of approximately 120 Canadians deployed as part of Task Force Poland to assist with efforts to support Ukrainians fleeing violence in their country. How long the Canadians will stay depends on an ongoing needs analysis conducted by the Polish and Canadian governments, Pridmore said.
The majority of the Canadian operations are occurring in the Warsaw area. Ukrainian refugees arriving at the border are brought by the country’s transportation system to the Polish capital and other cities, which are better able to support the influx of people, according to Pridmore.
Pridmore joined the Canadian military reserve in 2005, while he was still in high school, as a member of the Canadian Scottish Regiment in Nanaimo. He then enrolled in an officer entry program with the Canadian Forces and spent four years at the Royal Military College in Kingston, where he received a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree.
Pridmore has been stationed with units all over the country, and most recently joined Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, stationed in Edmonton, in 2020. Before that he spent time in Manitoba, Kingston, New Brunswick and Ottawa, in addition to deployments in Kuwait in 2020 and Afghanistan in 2013 in a role at the consolidated fielding centre located in Kabul.
His job during that mission, his first overseas deployment, was to ensure Afghan units were sufficiently trained and equipped to deploy.
“We were sort of the guys who gave the final check in the box before they moved out to a different part of the country to start conducting operations there,” said Pridmore. “The unique thing about the Canadian military, and I would say Canada as a whole, is that we are actually well-positioned to go into countries that are culturally very different than ours. Just because of how tolerant the culture of our nation is. It makes it very easy to go somewhere and attempt to integrate instead of impose.”
While in Kuwait, as part of Operation IMPACT, Pridmore worked in the headquarters operations cell and co-ordinated operations throughout the Middle East, including Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
He said his role in the current deployment is much different than the previous ones and different than what infantry soldiers generally train for, but everyone is extremely motivated.
“I know when it all started a lot of the guys were sitting on their couch at home, wondering ‘how can I help? What can I do?’ And it’s great that an opportunity like this presented itself and we were able to deploy here in a professional capacity to provide this assistance to Ukrainian refugees.”