In response to massive flooding in Calgary and
throughout southern Alberta, 41 Canadian Brigade Group was authorized to
deploy Task Force SILVERTIP to conduct domestic operations in support of
disaster relief efforts. On the afternoon of Friday, 21 June 2013, soldiers
of The Calgary Highlanders began to muster at Area Support Unit Calgary, on
the site of the former Currie Barracks. By midnight, 77 Highlanders had been
In all, the Task Force came to number 540 reservists,
of which approximately 125 were Calgary Highlanders, or just about 25%.
Other units in the Task Force included 41 Combat Engineer Regiment, The
King's Own Calgary Regiment, The South Alberta Light Horse, The Loyal
Edmonton Regiment (4 PPCLI) and 41 Service Battalion.
The Task Force operated independently as a
formation under the command of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, the
regular force formation based in Edmonton. This independent task force was
responsible for military domestic operations throughout the entire Calgary
region, working directly with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency as
part of Operation LENTUS.
In addition to providing soldiers for the relief
effort, the leadership of the Task Force Headquarters drew heavily from The
Calgary Highlanders. Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Owens
directed the headquarters, along with the Deputy Commanding Officer (Major
Kyle Clapperton), Regimental Sergeant Major (Chief Warrant Officer Robert
Besse) and Operations Officer (Captain Andrew Beauchamp).
of both the disaster, and the operation, is unprecedented in Alberta's
history. The flooding is the second most expensive weather-related event in
Canadian history (only exceeded by the cost of the eastern Canada ice storms
in 1998). It is believed, subject to verification by the Regimental Museum
and Archives, that this is the largest peacetime deployment of the regiment
in its 103-year history.
Canadian Press photo of Stampede Park submerged
by the June 2013 flood. Over two dozen local states of emergency were
throughout southern Alberta, extending from communities in the Rocky
Mountains as far as the Saskatchewan border. Three persons
lost their lives and 75,000 Calgarians were at least temporarily forced to
evacuate their homes.
On Friday, 21 June 2013, Task Force SILVERTIP
was mobilized, consisting in the main of soldiers from 41 Canadian Brigade
Group, in response to severe flooding in a number of communities in southern
Alberta. By 2400hrs on 21-22 June, over 75 soldiers from The Calgary
Highlanders had mustered at Area Support Unit Calgary, on the former Currie
Barracks/Canadian Forces Base Calgary site, ready to deploy on operational
tasks in conjunction with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA).
"B" Company, commanded by
Major Ryan Palmer of The Calgary Highlanders, included mission elements from
several units, with 1 and 2 Platoons coming from The Calgary Highlanders. On
Saturday, 22 June, 1 Platoon deployed to the neighbourhood of Inglewood,
along the Bow River, to assist CEMA in enforcing a mandatory evacuation
order. The platoon received not only national but international media
attention for its efforts in securing a river bank threatening homes. Photos
of the platoon's efforts in moving sandbags have appeared locally on the
cover of the Calgary Sun, and in print and online versions of the Calgary
Herald and Metro News, and online in such venues as the CNN website.
home station of The Calgary Highlanders, located just a block south
of the Bow River, was thankfully spared from the flooding. This
photo was taken on Friday, 21 June 2013. Much of the downtown core
was closed off to traffic, and residents and workers were told to
stay away for several days, so that buildings could be inspected,
and flooded areas cleaned up once flood waters receded.
Major G. Fedoruk gives the troops of "B" Company, Task Force
SILVERTIP, a safety and media briefing on the morning of Saturday 22
Officer J. Moreau musters 1 Platoon of "B" Company in anticipation
of the day's activities. It was to be a long and eventful day for
Colonel Roy Boehli,
Commander of 41 Canadian Brigade Group, looks on with great pleasure
at the results of the call to stand up Task Force SILVERTIP. With
very short notice the brigade assembled 500 soldiers equipped to
serve indefinitely on domestic operations. At far left Corporal
Nguyen of the Calgary Highlanders chats with the commander; at far
right is Corporal G. Harder. Behind the commander is Chief Warrant
Officer M. Woods of The King's Own Calgary Regiment, formerly of The
Calgary Highlanders. The soldier beside Corporal Nguyen
travelled from a communications squadron in B.C. to assist with the
No. 1 Platoon got
rolling on its tasks in mid-afternoon on Saturday. There was no
apparent need to issue maps - "there's an app for that."
The first order of
business was to go door to door in Inglewood and ensure the safety
of citizens in the neighbourhood, and verify compliance with the
mandatory evacuation order.
provided unique challenges: a common question was "how do you give a
Sitrep in which no one is shooting at anyone?" Nonetheless, the
soldiers recognized that the civil population - indeed, some of the
soldiers themselves - had just undergone a very traumatic event.
Fletcher, commanding 1 Platoon, puts his media training to the test.
Global News asks a few questions about the deployment; earlier,
Lieutenant Fletcher had escorted a Reuters photographer through the
flood-affected area of Inglewood.
The troops of 1
Platoon move onto their second major task; shifting a truckload of
sandbags into the bucket of a front-end loader for transport to the
river bank. Photographer Gavin John from the Calgary Sun can be seen
at left capturing the action.
The Calgary Sun, one
of Calgary's four major newspapers, published one the photos of 1
Platoon shifting sandbags on the cover of its Sunday edition the
Cable News Network
(CNN) also published a photo of the sandbag activity on its
Once the sandbags had
been moved to the water's edge, they had to be put into the water.
Up to 100 feet of river bank had been torn away by the raging waters
of the Bow River. The extent of the damage can be seen by comparing
to the Google street view below, taken from approximately the same
location. Note the curb in both images. Also note the height of the
water in relation to the bridge in the distance.
Photo via GoogleMaps street view.
Another before and
after view; upper image by GoogleMaps street view, lower image
courtesy of Lieutenant S. Fletcher. This was the area that 1 Platoon
assisted City of Calgary engineers with their wok in stabilizing the
river bank. Note the missing river bank at left, torn away by the
raging flood waters.
Another view of the
bike path in Inglewood; the flood waters have ripped away hundreds
of cubic metres of river bank. Houses in distance are the endangered
houses in the images above. Photo courtesy of Lieutenant S.
The unstable river
bank posed a danger to the troops, and it was decided to load the
sandbags into the bucket of an excavator and drop them into the
river, in an attempt to slow the current of the river and stop the
erosion of the bank. All work was done under the supervision of City
of Calgary engineers, who also operated heavy equipment to place
Jersey barriers in the water. At last report, the efforts were
successful in stopping the erosion, though residents were unable to
return to the houses along this street by the time the engineers and
soldiers finished their work.
The proximity of the
houses to the street can be ascertained by this shot. Reveille had
been at 0600hrs (6:00 a.m.) and the setting sun indicates here that
the time is after 2100 (9:00 p.m.)
The trucks were once
again mustered on the morning of Sunday, 23 June, under blue skies.
Weather over the weekend was warm and fine, a welcome relief from
the rain that helped precipitate the floods in the first place.
Call Sign II-IX, the
company commander's chariot, waits patiently at the head of the
The new mission for 1
Platoon: man the reception centre at the Inglewood Community Centre
and give residents the happy news that they can return to their
homes. Here, Lieutenant J. Hill and Lieutenant S. Fletcher talk with
locals, who apparently live "thataway".
Corporal M. Chambers
talks to residents of Inglewood as they pull ruined belongings from their
A section of 1
Platoon was detached to help staff the reception centre in Ramsay.
Sunday was another
long day, and reception centres were staffed until after last light,
the Inglewood centre closing at 23:00hrs (11:00 p.m.). Four soldiers
of 1 Platoon went on a patrol just before dark to assess power
outages north of 17th Avenue, and a sense of Calgarians resilience
made itself felt. This family, sitting among clusters of ruined
furniture, has decided to make the best of a bad situation and make
a party of eating the food going bad in their powerless
refrigerator. They generously offered their high quality cheese to
The soldiers on duty
were met with great generosity throughout the event, with gifts of
everything from home-made
sandwiches to premium coffee, pizza and other refreshments.
This blog on the
website of the Calgary Herald, Calgary's second major newspaper, is
evidence of the excellent relationship the soldiers of the Calgary
Highlanders established with the citizens of Inglewood during their
brief contacts with them over the first weekend of the deployment.
The work of 1 Platoon
in Inglewood continued to be an item of interest throughout the
country; this photo of Calgary Highlanders knocking on doors in
Inglewood appeared in an online edition of a Windsor, Ontario
newspaper on June 24, 2013.
Perhaps Calgary Mayor Naheed
Nenshi sums up the best (video courtesy LCol (ret'd) Michael
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