Meet Jim Sidel, Barrack Custodian

Sidel has earned many accolades over his careers, and wears many hats.

Sidel has earned many accolades over his careers, and wears many hats.

2Lt Justin Leong, Base Administration ~

Whether you are a Junior Naval Officer arriving for training, a member attending a conference, or a family member visiting the base, you would have met Commissionaire Sergeant Jim Sidel, Barrack Warden and Booking Clerk at Work Point Barracks.

He is famous for his quip, “What do I know, I’m just a Commissionaire!”

But Sidel knows a lot, stemming from 17 years’ service in the military as a Medical Assistant, retiring at the rank of Master Corporal, coupled with 23 years and counting with the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires.

During his military career, he was posted to the CFB Esquimalt Base Hospital in 1968, followed by a posting to the Calgary Field Ambulance in 1969.

“I was deployed with United Nations Emergency Force 2 to Germany in 1970 followed by Egypt in November 1973,” Sidel recounts.

He was then posted to Camp Borden in 1978 and various army units across Canada until he retired from the military in 1983.

As a commissionaire, he took up his current post at Work Point following a coffee chat with his supervisor at the time who offered him the job of custodian of the barracks. He trained a week with the outgoing Warden, and a few weeks later he left his gate duty for Work Point. 

“I have had the fortune of working with many Base Accommodation Officers and Base Accommodation Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers, all molding my professionalism to suit the position here and the needs of those we accommodate.”

What he has learned over the years is the importance of being empathetic, social, affable, and conversant, almost like a bartender to those living in barracks.

He’s also the guy who ensures the four accommodation buildings are clean, habitable, and ready for occupation. This means good relations with civilian and military personnel to get things done, such as Regional Property Operations, the caretakers of base buildings.

“I enjoy the people contact and discussions the most. I have no least favorite moment. There are some undesirable scenarios but nothing radical. There is not just one experience when it comes to the fondest memory and most rewarding experience.”

Since 2005, more than 33,000 military personnel have passed through the barracks, he says. 

This year, COVID-19 has slowed the student turnover process, but like all military processes, maximum flexibility is at the fore, so changes are always expected.

“Work Point has been and still is a great place to work, especially if you enjoy the process. To me, there is not another ­position that I have enjoyed more within the confines of CFB Esquimalt. The personnel that you meet, the friendships that have been made, the departments that assist all make it worthwhile. I am thankful to every one of those who have made my employment fun and rewarding, and unless something really creative happens, I do not anticipate leaving for as long as possible”.

He hopes to meet and even surpass 92-year-old Gerry Ratchford’s employment record with the Corps; Ratchford currently works at the Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton headquarters.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • He is the Western Regional Director of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping (CAVUNP) and the President of the MCpl Mark Field Chapter (CAVUNP Victoria).
  • He also sits on the Board of Directors for the International Canadians for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS).
  • He recently received the Sovereigns Volunteer Services Medal, the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, the Distinguished Services Medal from the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

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Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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