Even with all his uniform winter kit on, telling Private (Pte) Brandon Nadeau apart from other soldiers in the Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) is easy – there’s a gaping hole where his front tooth should be.
A C-9 gun collided with Pte Nadeau’s mouth and the tooth couldn’t be fixed in time for Exercise ARCTIC RAM, taking place in the Northwest Territories. But for this Prince Albert native, looking a little different isn’t anything new.
“I used to be part of a death metal band, Symbiote,” said the private, who played bass guitar and had more than 20 piercings all over his body. “I even had hair down to my waist, with red tips.”
Between the ages of 17 to 20, Pte.Nadeau travelled most of Western Canada playing gigs in bars.
After the band split, the rock star became a father to two boys.
“I kind of wanted a girl though, like a daddy’s little girl,” said Nadeau.
It was shortly after his first son turned one that Pte. Nadeau’s family home caught fire. The incident left the young father wanting to become a firefighter.
“There was a long waiting list so they told me to consider joining the Army for a better chance of getting in later,” said Pte. Nadeau, who became so determined to get in to the Reserves, he cut his hair before officially joining.
“I wanted to donate my hair to cancer, but it had bleach in it,” said Pte. Nadeau, who now sports the military buzz cut.
In the Army for little more than a year, the Private enjoys his time as an infantry soldier; “It’s so awesome – we get to do such cool things.”
And while he was often found in good spirits during Ex ARCTIC RAM; singing with his fellow soldiers from Saskatchewan, there was one thing Pte. Nadeau dreaded – the medic.
Only a few days into the exercise, the Private politely showed his infected ingrown toenail to those in the tent.
“It started when I was working the floods last year in Manitoba,” said Pte Nadeau, who was taken to CFB Shilo at the time for treatment. The medics there cut the nail on the sides and weeks later removed it completely.
This time medic Cpl Philippe Simon, 17 Field Ambulance, made daily visits to the tent to treat the infection. He inserted a thin strip of iodine gauze beneath each side of the nail to absorb the puss and let the nail grow above the skin.
Even though Nadeau loathed the coming of Cpl Simon, his toe looked and felt better within hours.
“If I wasn’t in this section with the [North Saskatchewan Regiment], I wouldn’t be so happy,” said Pte Nadeau who, along with three of his friends in the tent, is headed to tasking in CFB Shilo right after Ex ARCTIC RAM.
The 24-year-old has taken to being a soldier, and even changed his ambitions of becoming a firefighter to joining the Army full-time.
“I want to join the Regular Force eventually, but I want to do a tour first,” said Nadeau. “I’ll understand [reg force soldier’s] way of life better that way, because it’s totally different.”
Article and photos by Daniella Ponticelli