Dragoons take to the hills!

Castanet Article:



Members of the British Columbia Dragoons took to the hills above Kelowna this weekend as part of their annual regimental training day.

The local Dragoons are tasked with training armoured reconnaissance soldiers for deployments at home and overseas – so keeping their skills up to date is crucial.

“We are really conducting a training exercise that is designed to ensure that all the soldiers are coming up to a common standard and that they meet the standard that is required of us,” explains Lieutenant Mark Jennings-Bates, troop leader. “So we are just brushing up on skills from last year and making sure that they are fresh in our minds now that we start the new training year.”

Trained armoured reconnaissance soldiers can be used in deployments at home and overseas in the defence of Canada, in support of NATO allies, for local search and rescue efforts and to aid to civil authorities in times of emergency – such as the Okanagan Mountain fires of 2003.

“We have to train just in case anything happens – domestic operations like fires, floods, earthquakes or anything like that – we need to have those basic skills so we can help in those kinds of operations,” says Major Trevor Waaga, regimental second in command.

This weekend the regiment conducted its Individual Battle Task Standards training, which included weapons handling, navigation, reconnaissance tasks, vehicle check-points/searches and fitness assessments.

“We are the army in the Okanagan, so we are the army’s representative in the Okanagan and we are all reservists,” says Waaga. “So, we all have daytime jobs, we are all students and this is one thing we do Wednesday nights and on weekends throughout the year.”

As it turns out this a special year for the dragoons, as the establishment of a new reserve Communications Regiment in Vernon has made positions available – the unit is ready to hire.

“Here in the Okanagan we are totally going on a huge recruitment drive,” explains Captain Jeff Daley, regimental operations officer.

“The BC Dragoons are expanding this year and we need a whole bunch of dudes to expand. We have the positions, we have the work, I have the budget for them – we just need to get the guys in so we can get them trained up.”

Daley was quick to point out that ‘guys’ includes the current female officers. He says they are actively trying to improve the demographics in the reserves and they are actively attempting to recruit more women.

Captain Daley says they are looking for men and women who love to help and who want to make a difference.

“As a kid growing up, if you ever dreamed of being a fireman, a policeman, an astronaut or a maybe a soldier – if you are one of those people that played those games as a kid, why don’t you come play them as an adult and join the unit,” says Daley.

“Whatever your career is you can still do this part time. And, nowadays, it is kind of like living in a rock video. We have guys here right now setting up for a vehicle checkpoint and yeah, that is fun.”

“It is something different and that is one thing a lot of our soldiers enjoy,” adds Waaga. “It is different than what they do in everyday life and something they can do to help their country and nation.”

For Jennings-Bates it was the sense of adventure that had him joining in his adult years.

“I thought it would be a great way to stay healthy and stay fit even at my age,” says Jennings-Bates. “And not unlike other sports there is a sense of camaraderie in the unit, so you develop very loyal friendships that will last many years and I think people appreciate that once they start.”

While they welcome adult reservists of all ages and experience there is a bonus for students.

Daley says students who are active members can get paid while in school and get up to $2,000 a year for four years to help with their post-secondary education.