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.
Infantry Trade Qualification Level 1
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.
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
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.
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.
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.