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Cpl. Asela Peiris is one of two students trading his fatigues for textbooks.

U of C's finest return from tour

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Two of Canada's finest have returned to the University of Calgary, fresh from a military stint in the disputed Syria-Israel region of Golan Heights.

Master Corporal Les Champ and Corporal Asela Peiris spent five months as members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer force posted in Golan Heights. The pair, both members of the Canadian Military Reserves, returned from the voluntary assignment Aug. 30, just in time for the start of classes. Champ, 26, is a history major at the U of C, while Peiris, 23, is studying engineering.

Though Peiris has previously traveled to Germany for a NATO exercise, it was the first military mission for both men.

"It was a bit of a culture shock," admitted Peiris. "But to be working in the headquarters office, with a multinational staff, and to be able to learn about a different culture--my experience was amazing."

"It was an eye-opener," added Champ. "You can see the occasional dead dog on the side of the road, or drive down a path surrounded by a minefield on either side."

Both Peiris and Champ are signal operators in the 746th Communications Squadron. They are involved in the planning and management of various communications systems to ensure all detachments are connected in all situations.

Champ has been a part of the reserves for nine years.

"Originally, I joined for the money," he admitted. "But it's grown into a lifestyle choice. It's become more than a job. It's something I really can't live without now--where I'm challenged mentally and physically."

A reservist for five years, Peiris also has nothing but praises to sing for the reserves.

"It's fun and interesting," he said. "You get to meet people, to travel, and there's also an education reimbursement program."

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