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Barry AustreicherBy MARTIN ZEILIG

Second Lieutenant Barry Austreicher admits that his parents were “always sceptical” about his desire to join the Canadian Armed Forces.
But, they are accepting of his decision now.


“A lot of my friends thought it was a great career move for me because it was a perfect fit,” said this solidly built, soft spoken 27 year-old Orthodox Jew from Montreal and member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who joined the CAF in January of this year and completed his basic training in April.


2Lt Austreicher, who works in Operations at 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron Canadian Forces Base St. Hubert, Quebec, is on temporary duty now for Phase 1 Flight Training at 3 Canadian Flight Forces Training School in (Centre Port) Portage la Prairie– about 85 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
“I always liked the military life and the challenges it brings,” 2Lt Austreicher said during a recent interview. “And, I always wanted to be a pilot.” He explained that this first phase of training at 3 CFFTS is designed to see if the student has the motor skills to be a pilot, as well as the rate at which “you can learn a lot in a very short amount of time” about planes and aviation.
“Luckily, I have experience, so it’s easier for me,” said 2Lt Austreicher, who has a degree in finance from Concordia University.
“I have a private pilot’s licence with about 160 hours flying in a Cessna 152 and 172 and in Piper Cherokees.” When asked, he said his second career options within the RCAF might have been air traffic controller or an Air Combat Systems Operator (navigator).
“But, being a pilot was my main choice,” 2Lt Austreicher, who’s also fluent in French and Hebrew, emphasized. “I’m very set on being a pilot in the RCAF. Everywhere I go, they (aircrew) say, ‘There’s no bad cockpit.’”
2Lt Austreicher acknowledges that it’s challenging being an observant Jew in the CAF. “Every time I go to a new base I need to fill out a religious accommodation form stating my needs to observe the holidays and kosher requirements,” he said.
“It’s been good for the most part. During basic training, they ordered me a catered Passover meal. I had the seder in the field. So far, I’ve never had to work on Saturdays. My colleagues are very supportive. I’d have members turning the lights on and off for me during basic training.”


2Lt Austreicher remarked that during basic training there were people asking him what he was doing when he was eating matzah, so he shared some with his colleagues.
He also mentioned that the Second in Command of his platoon gave him time to pray in the mornings in a private room.
“I have the obligation to work on Saturdays,” said 2Lt Austreicher, an avid hockey fan, who has one sibling– an older brother. “I hope it won’t have to come to that. But, if I have to do it to save lives, then I’ll do it. Just like if you have to eat on Yom Kippur to save your life. Then, I’ll do it.”
His first “point of contact” when he arrives in a new city is the Chabad, observed 2Lt Austreicher, who gets into Winnipeg every weekend for Shabbat. “They always welcome every Jew with open arms and are very accommodating,” he said. “They make you feel very comfortable when you don’t know anybody, especially when you’re not at home.”
The Chabad is a community-based not-for-profit organization, dedicated to providing a Jewish experience for every man, woman or youngster who walks through its doors, regardless of background, affiliation, or level of commitment, says the Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg website.
“Today, over 3,500 Chabad institutions are located in more than 85 countries, with a new center opening on the average every ten days,” according to other online information. “A Chabad House is a ‘Jewish Center’ and a Chabad rabbi is a rabbi, period.”
“Now, my parents are supportive of me being in the RCAF,” 2Lt Austreicher added. “As a whole, the CAF is very accommodating with all kinds of religions.”
But, when it comes to protecting the country, they expect you to do your duty, he said.

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