HMCS Calgary’s unofficial bagpiper

Sergeant Steven Drinkwalter played the bag pipes during the Battle of the Atlantic ceremony on May 2 in the Arabian Sea while the ship was on Operation Artemis and part of Combined Task Force 150. Photo by Cpl Lynette Ai Dang, HMCS Calgary Imagery Technician

Sergeant Steven Drinkwalter played the bag pipes during the Battle of the Atlantic ceremony on May 2 in the Arabian Sea while the ship was on Operation Artemis and part of Combined Task Force 150. Photo by Cpl Lynette Ai Dang, HMCS Calgary Imagery Technician

HMCS Calgary’s Sgt Steven Drinkwalter grew up in Esquimalt where his father worked down the road at CFB Esquimalt.

At age 12, while watching the Victoria Day parade, his mother pointed to the pipe band as it marched by and said to him, “You’re doing that.”

So, he joined the 2136 Canadian Scottish Cadet Corps and learned the bagpipes, rounding out his cadet experience as he had already been in Sea Cadets and Air Cadets (Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps and 89 Pacific Air Cadets).

“I loved it right away,” he says.

In 1994, at 17, he transitioned from cadet to an Infantry Reservist in the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) Primary Reserve infantry unit out of the Bay Street Armoury in Victoria.

With this unit he toured the world as part of the Regimental Band. He fondly recalls touring the United States and going to Europe. His most memorable trip was to Scotland when his band participated in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the largest military show of its kind in the world.

In 2004, he moved from the Reserve Force to the Regular Force, joining as an Aviation Systems Technician. Since joining he has been on six deployments on four warships as part of their embarked air detachments.

To the delight of all the ship crews he has sailed with, Sgt Drinkwalter always deploys with his bagpipes, becoming the ships’ unofficial bagpiper. His bagpipe playing offers a powerful and emotive ambiance at dinners, cocktail parties, birthdays, celebrations, and memorials.

In HMCS Calgary his musical skills were used at the celebration of the RCAF’s 97th birthday, at a mess dinner, at a Battle of Atlantic ceremony, and during a memorial ceremony for the one-year anniversary of the crash of the helicopter Stalker 22.

On board, his technical skills as Weapon Systems Releaser and senior maintenance advisor ensure the ship’s embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter meets all regular safety and maintenance protocols.

Calgary just finished Operation Artemis and is now on Operation Projection where it visited Indonesia and then participated in Exercise Talisman Sabre off the coast of Australia.

“This (Operation Artemis) mission is particularly rewarding because so often your military career is preparing and ensuring that capabilities are ready at all times. On this mission, we are actually doing the work we are trained to do and making a fairly direct contribution in the fight against terror,” says Sgt Drinkwalter.

He still resides in Esquimalt where he lives with his wife Whitney and their four children Bailey, Austin, Madison, and Kenzie.

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