Our cherished Regiment The Brockville Rifles had the great pleasure of hosting a very special guest at our 152nd Officers’ Mess Dinner. The Commander of the Canadian Army, Lieutenant-general Wynnyk, CMM, MSM, CD, and his Sergeant-major, CWO Alain Guimond, MMM, CD, were present at our unit as a testament on the strengthened role the Army Reserve are to assume to further and better support the many missions of the Canadian Army.
Attending the supper were several distinguished guests, to whom we express our appreciation for their presence at the Regiment. We are thankful for the continued support of our Mayor Henderson, and MP Gord Brown, our Reverend Canon Read, as well as Chief Fraser and the numerous Police service representatives from Gananoque and the RCMP. Our MPP Steve Clark, and the Brockville Legion President sent messages of support. The Dinner had many special civilian guests attending, and we thank them for their presence and support to the unit and the Army Reserve.
Representatives from numerous regiments were present, including six former commanding officers of the SD&G Highlanders (thank you all), and from the 42nd Field Regiment, our historic “cousin” regiment, from The QOR, our senior regiment, The RCR, The Windsor Regt, the 33 Sigs, and from Montreal’s 34 Bde, the RMR and the 4R22eR. Our allied Regiment from the UK, The Rifles, were also very well represented. We also note the valued presence of officers from our Cadet Corps.
The 4 R22eR commander, LCol Jacques Nicolas, from Montréal showed his support to The Brockville Rifles by attended the evening.
The Mess Dinner sought to commemorate the centennial anniversary of our Battle Honour ‘Pursuit to Mons’, and reproductions of our Colours of the 156th Battalion (Leeds and Grenville) CEF were displayed. These Colours were laid to rest in 1921 in our Regimental Anglican church. Also on display was the bugle belonging to Sgt Albert Bootes in 1916-1917, recently discovered in France and returned to the Bootes family of Toronto (Our special thanks to the family). These tangible reminders help us recall our sacred link to the men of the 156th Battalion CEF, 6th Division, that were transferred to reinforce the PPCLI (an Ontario Regiment), and the 2nd, 21st and 38th Eastern Ontario Battalions CEF. They valiantly fought at Vimy, Passchendaele, and at the battles of the 100 Days that brought an end to that horrific war.
As Commanding Officer, I wish to express with our Honorary Officers, General DA Pryer, and Lcol R. Garber, the RSM R. Gagnon, as well as our many guests, our thanks to our PMC, SLt A.Melchers, our prior PMC Capt R. Lampron, and Mr R. Hum for making the evening very memorable. Also making the evening a true success were our regimental Bugler AJ Benoit, our Pioneer guards, the serving staff during the evening and the day staff who all contributed to a very pleasant visit to the Regiment for our guest of honour and his Sergeant-major.
We thank the Commander’s Aide de camp for providing the speech by the Commander of the Canadian Army, so we can all share in the inspiring words that express the vision of our Army Commander for the Army Reserve.
This event wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and support from the soldiers of The Brockville Rifles. A special thanks goes out to the members of The Brockville Rifles and the Regimental Society who contributed to the success of the Officer’s Mess Dinner.
LCol Paul d’Orsonnens, MSM, CD
Commanding Officer of The Brockville Rifles
Brockville Rifles Officers’ Mess Dinner
1800 for 1900, Saturday, 28 April, 2018
Speech of the Guest of Honour: Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, Commander, Canadian Army
Good evening and thank you for that kind introduction.
Mr. (Gord) Brown (MP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, The Honourable Justice Kershman, Your Worship Mayor (David) Henderson, Chief of Police (Scott) Fraser, Chief of Police Chief (Gary) Hull, BGen (Ret’d) (Vince) Kennedy, BGen (Ret’d) Pryer HCol, The Brockville Rifles HLCol (Rick) Garber, LCol d’Orsonnens (CO), Honoraries, serving and past, Commanding Officers, CWO Gagnon, Distinguished Guest;
It is a great honour to be here with you this evening. I am most appreciative to Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Rick Garber and Lieutenant-Colonel Paul d’Orsonnens for their invitation, and for their forbearance after I had to cancel last year, on short notice, from the same dinner.
Perhaps I should begin by saying how much I dislike speeches at mess dinners, and how it is tradition within my original corps, the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, not to have speeches at mess dinners. But, as your Army Commander, I can’t pass up on the opportunity to talk briefly about where the Army is going, and perhaps whet your appetitive for more discussion and conversation after dinner.
The Canadian Army is comprised of about 50,000 people, of which 23,000 are regulars, 17,000 Primary Reservists, 5,000 Rangers and 5,000 civilians. While we have in the past stated that we are one Army, we haven’t always acted this way, nor have we capitalized on the powerful potential of the Army Reserve. That is why the Canadian Army has launched a major initiative, the StAR program, or Strengthening the Army Reserve program.
As a key part of StAR, we are fully integrating Reservists into the regular Force for training and operations. Reservists will be expanding their roles and providing mission tasks in areas such as assault pioneers (Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment), mortars (Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada) , direct first support, and light urban search and rescue )(7th Toronto Regiment). This is already well underway and there will soon be another tranche of 21st century roles assigned to units including intelligence, cyber, linguistics and close protection, keeping unit identities and traditions intact I might add.
By integrating Reserve and Regular Force units at a tactical level, we will be able to get the most out of the skills, experience and specializations of each organization and its members to produce a more cohesive, operationally capable unit. Although initially branded as Strengthening the Army Reserve, I tend not to use this term as frequently any more when I describe what we’re doing…I simply say we’re strengthening the Army.
We will also be growing our Reserve Force. This was one of the commitments outlined in the new Defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, and Reserve modernization and reform has been one of the Army’s top priorities over the past couple of years.
To ensure that Reservists across the Canadian Armed Forces can realize greater operational potential, we will increase the size of the Reserve force to 30,000, an increase of 1,500 members. While the numbers have yet to be finalized, this should translate into 23,000 to 24,000 Army reservists, with the budget and resources commensurate with such an increase.
To help meet this goal, we have been aggressively attacking the bureaucracy and Byzantine recruiting practices that have for so long plagued the Army Reserve. For a little over a year now, the Army has regained control of Reserve recruiting from the Chief of Military Personnel. Many of you are aware that the overall strength of the Army Reserve declined for seven consecutive years, that is until the Army took over recruiting from a cold start and with no additional resources. I am proud to say that we have arrested the decline and have registered a very modest increase in strength in the last 12 months. While this is by no means victory, momentum is building and I am confident that with decentralized recruiting and the policies we now have in place, we can and will meet our most critical priority for the Army Reserve which is, of course, increasing strength.
For our part, we will continue to aggressively attack needless delay and bureaucracy to achieve the goal of recruiting within a couple of weeks (has been done, but the average is still around three months).
Another way the Canadian Army is working to increase recruitment and improve retention is through the Full-Time Summer Employment program. This guarantees summer employment during one’s first four years, and allows us to front-end load as much individual training as possible, thereby lightening the load later on when individuals are starting careers and families.
Starting this summer, new and recently enrolled Army Reservists will have the opportunity to work full time from May 1st to August 31st each summer, of a portion thereof if they choose not to do the full summer. We estimated that about one third of those eligible, roughly 2500, would take us up on the offer. To date, over 1500 have signed contracts and another 1700 have signalled their intent, so we are seeing a good uptake across the country and are confident that the a guaranteed means to pay one’s way through school will further incentivize service. Depending on what path one takes, this could translate into up to $80,000 over a four-year period.
The Army Sergeant-Major and I have made a personal commitment to strengthen the Army by strengthening the Army Reserve for many reasons. Perhaps most obvious is that we need to get more return from our investment in the Reserves, and to do so we need to allocate more resources and decentralize authorities. Less obvious, but perhaps more importantly, is that I firmly believe that the strategic centre of gravity of the Army, and indeed the Canadian Armed Forces, is in the Army Reserve because our units are found all across this great country.
The Brockville Rifles is one of 123 Army Reserve units from Vancouver Island in the West to St. John’s in the East, and from Windsor in the South to Yellowknife in the North. Having close ties to every geographic region in Canada deepens the connection Canadians have with the Army, and the relevance of the Canadian Armed Forces to the public.
The Brockville Rifles epitomizes these ties with the community. This unit has steadfastly and unwaveringly maintained its close relationship with the City of Brockville, as evidenced by the excellent turnout of community members here this evening. The Brockville Rifles can proudly say that they are older than Canada itself, and they perpetuate the 1st Battalion Leeds Militia, a unit that was raised in this area in 1796. Formed as the 41st Brockville Battalion on the 5 October 1866, there are very few Canadian Army units that can claim such a rich and unbroken record of service to the British Empire and to Canada.
Members of this regiment have proudly served and been recognized for bravery in all of Canada’s wars, from the Fenian Raids to the present day. I would also add that The Brockville Rifles sent enough soldiers to Afghanistan to be awarded the theatre battle honour, which is not a distinction that was awarded to every Reserve infantry unit and is particularly notable given the size of this unit.
The Brockville Rifles earned the appreciation of many local communities during Operation Recuperation, the Canadian Forces response to the 1998 ice storm. Indeed, the Brockville Armoury became the headquarters for the main effort in the area and Colonel Craig McQuitty, who was the Commanding Officer at the time and who is with us tonight, saw his command grow from 70 to 700 overnight. The assistance and relief efforts provided by the Brockville Rifles during this domestic operation exemplified the core values of the Canadian Army: courage, dependability, and professionalism.
There aren’t only strong ties between this unit and the City of Brockville, there are amazing personal connections as well. Hundreds of soldiers who started with the Brockville Rifles continue to serve today, both in and out of uniform. I know there are many here tonight, but I would like to highlight two in particular. The first is your Honorary Colonel, Brigadier-General Don Pryor. From a reserve gunner who began his career here in Brockville to an officer and CO of the Queen’s Own Rifles, to command of Central Militia Area and now as your honorary, he has given an extraordinary part of his life to Queen, country and this Regiment, and I would ask that you join me in giving him a big round of applause.
The second is Lieutenant-Colonel John Selkirk whose record of service both as a regular officer, the Commanding Officer of this Regiment and as an honorary, has been extraordinary. As the Executive Director of Reserves 2000, he has worked tirelessly to advocate for a stronger Army Reserve. Early on in my tenure I met with John and we decided that we could accomplish a lot more by working together, and I am indebted to him for his wisdom, pragmatism and sage advice. Many of the changes that we are implementing in the Army Reserve are not original thought on my part, they are long-overdue initiatives that were championed by John, an officer whose roots run deep in your Regiment. I would ask that you also give him a round of applause for all that he has done and continues to do for the Army, and the Army Reserve in particular.
The final point that I would like to make is the importance of embracing your history and traditions, and the Brockville Rifles do this well. As I am constantly explaining to my Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force counterparts, the Army is not a homogenous force; it is a loose collection of clans that come together for a common good. It is based on the time-proven British Regimental tradition, and it works. To that end, anything that strengthens unit pride and identity, whether it be uniform distinctions or instructing your soldiers in your rich history and heritage, is good because it strengthens one’s devotion to the Regiment and, by extension, the Canadian Army.
I applaud all that the Rifles are doing in this regard, from maintaining the dress and traditions of a rifle regiment, to renewing your links with the Rifles in the UK, to the battlefield tours that you have or will take to France and Belgium. There is little or no public funding for activities of this nature, but those of us who serve or who have served know how important they are and I am grateful that you have the mechanisms and support in place to ensure that your soldiers know their regimental roots. I am particularly delighted to hear that you are in the process of establishing a Brockville Rifles museum.
In closing, I would like to thank you again for the honour of being here this evening. Your unit is not only a source of pride to this community, but to the Canadian Army. I wish you every success as you grow in size and strength.