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Chaplain completes grueling army parachute course

November 30, 2009 One Comment

VALCARTIER – Harold Ristau has taken his chaplaincy work to a new high.

The 37-year-old LCC army captain qualified as a parachutist after completing one of the toughest and most grueling courses the Canadian Forces offers this November.

The accomplishment also earned Ristau a rare honour – a set of jump wings – and put the husband and father in a position to minister to Canada’s toughest soldiers: its paratroopers.

“You’ve got to earn your rights to be one of them before you can have the privilege to minister to them,” said Ristau. “Otherwise, they just see you as a parish priest or a social worker.

“It gives me access to a group of tough guys I may not have [had] access to.”

Besides, said Ristau, he always wanted to take the course.

The three-week course ran in Trenton, Ont. and saw Ristau train with classmates, many of whom were at least a decade younger than him, for 12 hours a day.

For the first two weeks, they learned drills on harnesses in a gymnasium.

After passing a series of exams, the class boarded Hercules aircraft. Carrying about 45 kilograms of equipment – a rifle, rucksack, snow shoes, parachute and reserve parachute – the soldiers completed six jumps from an altitude of 375 metres.

One of those jumps took place at night in the pitch black.

“It’s a big deal for a chaplain to complete it successfully because few have achieved to do so,” said friend and fellow chaplain Capt. Jason Kouri. “Having your earned wings on your uniform will gain you much respect from the troops as they see you as really part of the gang…it opens doors for ministry.”

Kouri described Ristau as determined, strong willed, hard working, a good preacher, and very much in shape.

Before entering the Canadian Forces four years ago, Ristau served as a civilian pastor in Montreal.

He is now attached to 3rd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment and a tactical helicopter squadron. He is also in charge of the Protestant chapel at the Valcartier Garrison.

Ristau will return to Afghanistan for his second rotation in 2010.

One Comment »

  • vic sedo said:

    Hi , Last year i obtained a diary/calender for our pastor. Could you tell me where i can obtain one for him again, Thanks so much. If i recall Concordia University was sending them out.

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