Calgary Stampede – lots of military excitement

Military members wave their white cowboy hats with Rear-Admiral Art McDonald at the Calgary Stampede. Photo by Ashley Materi, 3rd Canadian Division Public Affairs

Military members wave their white cowboy hats with Rear-Admiral Art McDonald at the Calgary Stampede. Photo by Ashley Materi, 3rd Canadian Division Public Affairs

Ashley Materi, 3rd Canadian Division, Public Affairs ~

From July 7 to 16, visitors from around the world flocked to Calgary for “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”

The Calgary Stampede provided the perfect opportunity for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members to interact with the public and demonstrate the skills and equipment used by sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen.

Every year, the military sets up a static display on the grounds during the Calgary Stampede. This year visitors could sit in the cockpit of a CF-18, experience the inside of a fully functional tank, explore a military ambulance, hold a variety of weapons, including a C9A2 machine gun and a M72 light anti-tank weapon, and interact with different military members in charge of each display.

41 Combat Engineer Regiment had a mock minefield for guests to comb through with a metal detector. Soldiers demonstrated how to use the metal detector to find pieces of metal buried in the “minefield,” replicating their task of minefield clearing while on a mission.

“A lot of countries, what they’ll do is get sneaky with their mines, and they’ll make them out of wood or plastic,” says Corporal Connor Williscroft. “The only metal in there is the fuses that explode.”

He explained to visitors that once the Engineers detect metal, they get on their stomachs and prod the ground to determine what they’ve found, be it a landmine, unexploded ordnance or any other piece of metal in the ground, and they deal with it accordingly.

The most popular display year after year is the Leopard II tank from Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). Master Corporal Justin Monge says that while the tank gets a lot of attention, a frequent question is whether the tank is real or just a wooden display.

“I have them come up and knock on it and make sure it is exactly what I say it is,” he says.

Sergeant Tim Cranston from the Calgary detachment of 15 Field Ambulance (Edmonton) says that while the ambulance display might not be as attention-grabbing as the tank, he is appreciative of the conversation the static displays allow between military personnel and civilians.

“A lot of our media coverage is more about the United States, so it’s nice to get out here and talk to people because there are a lot of differences between us and how they operate down there,” Sgt Cranston says.

He is grateful for the opportunity to highlight what sets Canada’s military apart from the rest of the world.

Another display that is particularly thrilling to young visitors at the Stampede is the hard-hull inflatable boat from the Royal Canadian Navy. Chief Petty Officer Second Class Rachel Dziver from HMCS Tecumseh enjoys helping children explore the boat, but she is also pleased about the opportunity to explain that there is a Naval Reserve presence in landlocked Calgary.

“We’re not just here to protect the Bow River,” she says. “It’s a training and recruiting centre for Naval Reservists to augment the Regular Force.”

CPO2 Dziver added that working as a Naval Reservist is an excellent job for students, since they do their training in the winter and have the opportunity to work on west coast warships during the summer months.

Between the mini doughnuts and midway fun, military members enjoy being part of the  Calgary Stampede tradition.

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