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The Calgary Highlanders 1946 to Present

On 1 April 1946, the unit was redesignated "The Calgary Highlanders"; reverting back to a one battalion Militia unit was complete. The unit received the Freedom of the City of Drumheller and the Freedom of the City of Calgary on 3 July 1964. The Regiment annually exercises its right to the Freedom of the City of Calgary by parading in commemoration of St. Juliens' Day in April, and Walcheren Causeway in October. Freedom of the City of Drumheller was last exercised 11 November 1990.

In 1968, the three services of Canada's military were combined in a controversial policy known as Unification. The Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force were reorganized into a single entity known as the Canadian Armed Forces. The distinctive uniforms of the services were replaced with a dark green Canadian Forces uniform common to all.

After the Second World War, the regiment had several active companies throughout southern Alberta. The Battalion, through the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's, has gradually, through changes in national defence policy, become centered solely in Calgary. The Battalion is currently composed of Battalion Headquarters, "HQ" Company and "A" Company garrisoned at Mewata Armoury.

Winter Exercise Suffield, Alberta


Mechanized Infantry: 1980 - 1991

In April 1981, the Regiment took delivery of the first of several new vehicles.  At first referred to by the archaic "Car, Armoured, Personnel Carrier", the official designation changed to Armoured Vehicle, General Purpose (AVGP), and acquired the official nickname of "Grizzly."  The vehicles were amphibious (earning them also the sobriquet "boat") and self-contained in the event of nuclear, biological or chemical attack. 

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Photo reproduced from CASR

The new vehicles reflected a commitment to having Reserve soldiers in Canada capable of augmenting the Regular Force in Europe.  At this period in time, the Cold War was very much a reality; Canada's best and most completely equipped brigade was stationed in West Germany (many Calgary Highlanders served brief tours with this brigade as individual augmentees).  Not only was speculative fiction about the next war in Europe extremely popular (witness books like "Team Yankee" by Harold Coyle or "The Third World War" by Sir John Hackett, movies such as "World War III", and any number of computer and wargames published by several companies based on a possible conflict between the Warsaw Pact and NATO in Germany) but in at least one case, speculative fiction based on massed armour battles on the North German Plain was actually turned into a Canadian Forces Manual.  Calgary Highlanders also trained with NATO units in Norway, Alaska and the Continental United States.

Driver qualifications began in 1980 for the new AVGP, and Exercise Glenmore Probe II on 6-8 November 1980 gave the Regiment its first training opportunities with the new vehicles.   Machine Gun courses also prepared gunners to use the .50 calibre main armament and 7.62mm coaxial machine guns.  Each vehicle had one of each type of gun, located in a Cadillac-Gage turret.

Corporal D. Nixon "aced" a Regular Force AVGP course in early 1981 and was tasked to instruct the very next course.

The annual Militia concentrations highlighted the goal of year round training - to be able to participate in a war against the Warsaw Pact. The Calgary Highlanders official operational tasking in event of mobilization was to provide a trained rifle company to the PPCLI, themselves tasked to reinforce the Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in West Germany.

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Infantry Trade Qualification Level 1 Course
Sarcee Training Area, Calgary, mid 1980s

MILCON '87, from 15-22 August 1987, was conducted at Militia Training Centre Dundurn and divided into three phases; a mechanized combat team advance and quick attack, then a helicopter assault, and then a deliberate attack.  The last phase was done against positions dug according to Warsaw Pact doctrine, and the enemy force was "appropriately dressed in PACT kit" according to an article in The Thin Red Line the next Spring.

Two years later, in 1989, the Soviet Union began a period of rapprochement with the West.  The division between East and West Germany was tangibly removed with the removal of the Berlin Wall and eventual unification of the German states.   On Christmas Day 1991, the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist and the experiment that had started in the throes of Revolution in 1917 had come to an end.

With the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the need for large mechanized forces in the West had also come to an apparent end.  In Canada, there were also changes.  In September 1991, Southern Alberta Militia District and Prairie Militia Area were reorganized.  Alberta Militia District now reported to Land Forces Western Area.  In August 1991, the last of the MILCONs was held at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright.

Nonetheless, at about this time the Regiment's four Grizzlies were exchanged for a newer version armoured personnel carrier, the Bison, which had eight wheels.  The Regiment continued to use these vehicles until 1994.

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The New World of Peacekeeping and Light Infantry: 1991 - 2001

By 1993, some 4000 Canadian soldiers - over 10 percent of the United Nations' total number of peacekeepers operationally deployed - were serving in Cyprus, Syria/Israel, Somalia, Croatia, Cambodia, Central America and other locations around the world.  Peacekeeping was nothing new to Calgary Highlanders; many serving Highlanders had served multiple tours while with the Regular Force.  The Regiment itself had made significant contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations such as OP SNOWGOOSE in Cyprus or the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt.


A UN Patrol In Cyprus

Others had been deployed on UN missions, but never more than two or three at a time, and usually employed at ranks lower than they were qualified for.  By 1993, cuts to the Forces resulted in large scale Militia augmentation of overseas missions.  Reservists - many Calgary Highlanders included - made up almost 1/3 of the Canadian contingent in Yugoslavia, and were often employed in their rank. Roto 1 saw 21 Calgary Highlanders serving in Bosnia, and Roto 2, in the Summer of 1993, saw no less than 27 Calgary Highlanders serving with UNPROFOR as part of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

As overseas commitments grew, and Regular Force units were reduced in size, the inevitable withdrawal of the Bisons turned the Calgary Highlanders back into, nominally, a "light infantry" battalion.

Emphasis turned to individual training; annual "Warrior" testing ensured that all ranks were tested regularly on TOETs (Tests of Elementary Training) with regards to the various infantry weapons, first aid, NBC (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical) Defence, Mine Awareness, Armoured Fighting Vehicle Recognition, and other basic military knowledge.  The older term TOET was later replaced with MLOC (Minimum Level Of Competency).

As a reflection of the Canadian Forces' commitment to reflecting the best of Canadian society and culture, sensitivity training in the form of SHARP (Sexual Harassment And Racism Prevention) was instituted in the 1990s throughout the CF and represented another facet of individual training.

Light Infantry are not merely infantry who are lacking in vehicles, but are soldiers who must be prepared to carry out a myriad of tasks on the battlefield using specific skills sets.  The Calgary Highlanders began training towards these goals in the late 1990s; helicopter assaults, amphibious raids, and mountain operations began to form the centrepiece of unit training in the late 1990s and into the 21st Century.


Second Century: Afghanistan and New Challenges

The deadliest terrorist attack on North American territory occurred on September 11th, 2001 when four commercial airliners were hijacked. Two were deliberately crashed in the World Trade Center in New York, a third into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a fourth was brought down in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to storm the cockpit and regain control of the aircraft. A total of 2,996 people lost their lives in the attacks, including 24 Canadians. Responsibility was traced to the Al-Qaeda militant group based in Afghanistan. Canada joined a multi-national effort under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and deployed naval, land and air forces to the region. Direct Canadian military operations ended in 2014, and the battle honour "Afghanistan" bestowed to units that either deployed there as formed units, or to reserve units that contributed more than 20% of their strength as individual augmentees. In addition to receiving the Afghanistan Battle Honour, The Calgary Highlanders became the first reserve infantry regiment to be awarded the Canadian Forces Unit Commendation for its level of commitment during the war in Afghanistan. A total of 105 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan 126 times, of an official strength of 111, or in other words, 107% of its strength. A number of soldiers received individual commendations for their work in Afghanistan, and Captain Simon Cox was Mentioned in Despatches for bravery under fire.

In 2010, the Regiment celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a number of events. In May, a centennial weekend was held in conjunction with The King's Own Calgary Regiment, with a meet and greet of unit veterans and serving soldiers on May 28, followed by a Centennial Parade and inspection by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta on 29 May, the last parade ever at historic Currie Barracks in Calgary. That night, a military ball was held at The Military Museums across from the barracks, and a farewell picnic capped the event the next day. In the meantime, a delegation of 80+ serving soldiers, musicians, veterans and family members prepared to depart on a Regimental Battlefield Pilgrimage, which began on 1 June. Key events in the pilgrimage were the laying of wreaths at military cemeteries and monuments from Normandy to Flanders to Groningen in the Netherlands, as well as the official unveiling to new monuments marking battles at Clair Tison and Hill 67, both in Normandy. Other commemorations included special exhibits at The Military Museum, and the construction the Calgary Soldier's Memorial, which was dedicated on 9 April 2011.

The Regiment today continues to improve its skills as a Light Infantry unit capable of carrying out many types of missions that would not be unusual in modern battlefields such as those found in Afghanistan.

The unification of the three services in 1968 began to be reversed beginning in the mid-1980s when Distinctive Environment Uniforms (DEU) were introduced for the sea, land and air elements of the Canadian Forces. In 2014, the historic titles Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force were reintroduced, and the same year, the pre-unification system of Army ranks was introduced, replacing the Canadian Forces rank badges that had been common to all three branches. 


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