Black History Month is a time to honour Black Canadians, both past and present. It is also a time to reflect and learn more about their distinguished service. The Royal Montreal Regiment (RMR), by its nature as a ‘city regiment’, reflects the communities that it draws recruits from. In honour of Black History Month, the RMR Foundation is publishing profiles of service of some of the Black Canadians who have served (and continue to serve) in our ranks.
Westmount, Quebec – 27 February 2021: Corporal John Tobas, CD joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2002 and is currently serving in the RMR’s operational rifle company as the Company Quartermaster Storeman Driver.
He started his interest in the military at a young age as a Cadet in Trinidad, where he spent many years in several marching bands. A little known fact is that Corporal Tobas played both the trombone and the side-drum.
Corporal Tobas has all the usual military qualifications for the Infantry trade, along with numerous driver wheeled qualifications, and he is also qualified as a Civil-Military Operator (CIMIC). Basically if it can shoot something, he’s qualified to operate it, and if it has wheels and is painted green, he’s qualified to drive it.
His favourite memory of serving with the RMR was when there was a shortage of troops in his rifle platoon on a winter exercise in Valcartier. As he recounts “Despite there only being seven (7) of us we still had to perform all the tasks expected of a full rifle platoon. We had to do all the patrols, set up the defenses, prepare the attacks, mount the Listening Posts, everything.” There was an upside – the small group received the full ammunition load of a 35-person platoon, so there was a lot to fire off when needed! He reminisced that his buddies and he still talk about that exercise, which although it was one of the toughest they’ve ever done, it was definitely the most rewarding.
When asked what he likes the MOST about being in the RMR, he answered “It is like a family and has good leadership” Life is not always rosy, and when pressed he notes that the thing he likes the LEAST about serving in the RMR is the fact that “Being rejected from serving my country on a tour because I couldn’t speak French”. That was early on in the beginning of the first rotations into Afghanistan, but Corporal Tobas got his chance to serve there a few years later.
When asked what was the coolest thing that he has done in the military so far in his career, he didn’t hesitate to answer: “Riding helicopters in Afghanistan, it felt like I was in a Vietnam war movie. We had to deal with the threat of the Taliban shooting us down so the pilots made the rides really exciting”. Corporal Tobas preferred riding in the Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters when he was in Afghanistan.
His advice to young soldiers in the Regiment today is timeless: “Learn as much as you can. Get courses, try and move up in rank, and be a good role model for the younger troops”
Corporal Tobas has represented the RMR on many different taskings. One of the most interesting – and the most emotional – for him was to be part of the 75th anniversary D-Day commemorations held on Juno Beach in France in June 2019. The reality of the sacrifice was really driven home for Corporal Tobas when he visited the Bretteville-sur Laize Canadian War cemetery and came across the grave of Private Gerard Doré, the youngest Canadian soldier killed in action during WW2 at the young age of 16-years old, killed on July 23rd 1944.
Born and raised in Trinidad, Corporal Tobas immigrated to Canada in 1990 and he currently resides in Candiac, Quebec. When not serving in the RMR he works as a caretaker at the Sherbrooke Academy, in Beaconsfield, Quebec.