Maple Ridge’s Jacob family has an impressive military history.
Capt. Mike Jacob’s father was with the fleet air arm of the Royal Navy, working as an aircraft engineer during the Second World War.
And Mike Jacob, 54, is in the merchant navy, transporting mostly commercial goods, although he took Royal Navy – training that makes him fully qualified to command a navy ship.
His service in the military,although comparatively brief, taught him what the life was like.
“You didn’t slouch around and your boots were polished,” he laughs.
“You come out of there with your head screwed on your shoulders.”
He believes everyone would benefit from the emphasis on values such as honesty, integrity and respect.
“I wish they had compulsory military service for everyone in Canada – even just a year,” he said.
His own career preparation was rigorous – he gave years of academics followed by 48 months of sea time.
And it is ongoing. He is trained as a specialist in tactics against pirate attacks against commercial ships – a scenario popularized in the movie Captain Phillips.
“It’s a huge responsibility you hold on your shoulders,” he said of a ship’s captain.
He has travelled to high-risk places on the planet working with non-governmental organizations, and has been shot at.
Mike lives in Maple Ridge, and works as a consultant on a variety of matters, from security to health and safety.
His son John graduated from Meadowridge School, and went into the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. He is in his third year at Canada’s own version of the popular West Point military academy in the U.S.
There are 1,100 students, and he is one of a few from B.C.
John had been a cadet with the local 583 squadron. He loved the marksmanship, the flight school, and even the parade. It left him with a desire to become a commercial pilot – which would have been following in the footsteps of an uncle who flies for Air India.
But in Grade 11, John decided he would get that training through the air force.
“Cadets taught me a lot about the military,” he said.
“I had the interest, I had the tradition to uphold, and when I found RMC, I had the opportunity.” The first year was tough, but John has undergone a full indoctrination into military life.
“It’s grown on me. It constantly challenges me. I’ve grown a lot as a person,” he said.
One of the keys is perseverance. From his class of 280 who entered RMC, only 207 are left.
“There’s a big ‘Never quit’ attitude.”
Like most young people, his career goals have changed as he adapted to military life. He wants to be an air combat systems officer in which he monitors communications and does the tactical command of an aircraft.
“You handle the mission side, and the pilot handles the flying side,” he explained.
“I enjoy the tactical aspect – you’re the guy moving the chess pieces.”
The idea of being deployed into a combat situation is not fear inspiring.
“I’m excited to do my part. I want to be deployed,” he said.
But speaking with others who have done the same job, hearing what can go wrong, John is motivated to train and prepare for a situation when lives may depend on him.
He will graduate in two years as a second lieutenant, but based on his career progression, should be promoted to captain inside of four years.
“That will be fun,” said his dad, “because anytime someone says ‘Captain Jacob’ we’ll both turn around.”
He’s proud of his son’s pursuit of a military career.
“It’s a noble deed. A noble cause. You do something for God and your country.
“You do not, unfortunately, get the respect you deserve.”
As an air cadet, John marched in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Maple Ridge, which he said are impressive for a community this size.
There is added Nov. 11 tradition at the Royal Military College. Their uniforms are decades old. Past students inscribed their initials and ID numbers into their gaiters – leather chaps that go over the lower legs.
His bear 25 of these ‘names.’ Past students include astronaut Chris Hadfield and General Tom Lawson, the Chief of Defence Staff. Of course, some of the graduates died in combat. He feels part of a proud tradition.
“At the cenotaph you think about the people who laid the foundation for what you have now – respect the sacrifice of people who came before you. And you remember the fallen.”