I will add a forward to this story provided by Steve Ferris for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s not often that we, RCEME find ourselves in the limelight unless of course it involves tug of war, bonspiels or hockey tournaments. If the Army was a Muppet Show, we would be the Doozers of Fraggle Rock quietly going about our business in the background, often in the shadow of our combat arms brethren. This is not a bad place to be and without doubt the work we do for them matters. As Field Martial Montgomery put it when describing REME’s role in the desert campaign they were “keeping the punch in the Army’s fist”. This applied equally to REME as it does most certainly to RCEME then and now. The second reason for the forward is I didn’t really think much of what happened on the range that day as I was just happy to be “out of the office” doing something useful. I wasn’t till Steve related the BUB story that I came to call the moment we stole a little thunder my “15 Nano seconds of fame”. Corps SM
By: Steven Ferris, CD
24 Oct 2006, Tarnak Farms/Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
I deployed to Afghanistan as Weapons Sect IC and was employed as the Battle Group CSS Rep for a month while one of the Captains was on his HLTA. I was positioned at the Canadian Battle Group Operations Center in Afghanistan to act as one of two liaison personnel to support Battle Group Operations during TF 3-06.
During this period the Battle Group was receiving the Leopards Tanks in theatre. There were daily meetings at the Ops Center to co-ordinate the arrival, inspections and needs of this new asset. The arrival of Leopard Tanks in theatre was a “Big Deal” as there were many eyes on this project and CSS played a large role in ensuring that this project was a success.
The Strathcona’s Maj and his WO were at these daily Battle Group update briefs (BUB’s) to make sure their needs were being met and to provide the Ops Maj with updates as to when the tanks could be used to support TF 3-06. After some time of planning the day was finally here when the first rounds from the Canadian tanks would be fired in Afghanistan.
That morning we had a meeting to make sure the range was prepared and all the support personnel, tank crews and equipment were ready and in place to test fire the Leopards. The range went ahead as scheduled and I waited for WO Saunders, Sgt McColeman and the RCEME techs to return so I could get briefed for the BUB that night. I met with WO Saunders after the range and he told me details about the range practice so that I could provide an update at the BUB that evening.
As many of you know, there is a round table discussion at these BUBs to address any points that happened that day. CSS was often the last to be heard. I was sitting at the table listening to all of the “players” bring up their points but the biggest event at the BUB was that everyone wanted to hear how the range practice went and wanted to know if the Leopard tanks were ready to be used to conduct operations.
The Strathcona’s Major proudly spoke of how the range went and that he was very proud to point out that the Strathconas were the first Canadians to fire a tank round during Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. This was a big deal for the regiment and they were extremely proud to be the first ones to fire those rounds, they even kept the casings. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and those comments were not sitting well with me. I was happy for the Strathconas and I held my peace until it was my turn to talk.
When it finally came around to me I congratulated the Strathconas and pointed out the work that Maintenance Platoon had done to get these Leopards ready to be used and then I calmly pointed out to the Major that his story wasn’t factual. This got the attention of everyone sitting around the table and all eyes were on me wondering where I was going with this comment. Who was I to say a Major had his facts wrong?
The Major and his WO were glaring at me and I could tell they were not happy. I gave a little smirk and proceeded to tell everyone that it was in fact a RCEME Weapons Tech named WO Saunders and then a RCEME EO Tech named Sgt McColeman who had fired the first few rounds from a Leopard Tank in Afghanistan. In fact it was the RCEME Corps and the RCEME Techs supporting that range who actually fired the first rounds from the Leopard Tanks in Afghanistan and not the Strathconas as was said earlier.
Well, you could have heard a pin drop at the BUB after I made my comments and then a burst of laughter started around the table. The Major wasn’t particularly happy with my comment especially since he was now being ribbed by all the other representatives there. I got a few comments from the various reps at the table about RCEME stealing the thunder from the Strat’s. I approached the Major after the meeting to make amends as I would still be seeing him at the BUBs and I didn’t want there to be a continued awkwardness but it was necessary to be factual about the first rounds.
Later that night I returned to my tent and told WO Saunders about my story at the BUB and that I may not be employed there tomorrow.