The Lone Strathcona in Kuwait
By: WO N.V. Mills
Going from squadron-level operations to being employed at the 1st Canadian Division HQ in Kingston, ON for almost three years has presented many training and operational opportunities. I have served as the Operations NCO for Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) on 12 hours notice to deploy for over two years, during which time the Division conducted numerous exercises in the UK, South Korea, Hawaii, and all over Canada. Last fall, Sgt Dave Barsotta and I had the opportunity to be loaded on a 2 month professional development course conducted in Fort Benning, Georgia, with the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. We were the first Canadians ever to participate on the course and we finished it holding the top two positions because, after all, we are Strathconas. Overall, working and training at the division-level was a big jump from the squadron-level and one that came with a steep learning curve. It has served as good experience with constant learning opportunities.
All this training was a great lead up to my rapid deployment on Operation IMPACT as a part of the JTF-Iraq HQ. I deployed in October with the advance party and we hit the ground running. As with any initial deployment, we tried to figure out what we were doing while doing it at the same time. However, it didn’t take long before we were operational and dropping bombs on enemy position and installations as intended and with good effects.
Together as a joint headquarters, we are made up of people from all different experiences, environments and trades. Fortunately, I work with a few other combat arms personnel, so when we are together everything seems to be a little more “normal”. As a testament to our diversity, the flag pole over the camp flew the RCD flag for Lilyfontein Day, RCHA flag for St. Barbara’s Day, the RCR flag for their birthday, and the Strathcona flag for Moreuil Wood. As we stopped for small ceremonies to commemorate each other’s days, we learned of each other’s regimental history. It has reminded me of how different and important it is to be a part of a combat arms regiment. Officer or NCO, we had all shared similar hardships, successes and losses. It has made for a strong sense of comradery amongst the few combat arms soldiers here.
As the sole Strathcona on this operation, I had the privilege of raising our flag over Camp Canada for the commemoration of the Battle of Moreuil Wood. There was an RCD, an RCR, and Gunner as part of our small, quick “ceremony” and they were able to learn a little more about the heroism and perseverance of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). For this Strathcona here on my own, it was certainly a nice feeling of home to be able to look out and see our flag flying over this camp in the Kuwaiti desert.