AS WE WENT EAST, NOW WE GO WEST
By: Cpl Travis Paskuski
On the morning of July 27, the Strathcona Mounted Troop (SMT) departed the stables at CFB Edmonton for our longest road trip of the year. Our first stop was Medicine Hat, AB for the Stampede and Exhibition where we were to perform our Musical ride to jump start the rodeo! The ride went well and it was an opportunity to work out all the kinks for the remainder of the trip. We had the "luxury" of staying at CFB Suffield where living quarters are a bit "unusual" to say the least. It turns out that during the summer months the hockey arena doesn't see too much use in Suffield, so members of the troop set up cots in the dressing rooms, bleachers, and utility closets. True to being an officer, Captain McLean set up his cot in the Arenas one office, and possibly foreshadowing the trouble they were bound to get in Cpl Daos and Tpr Albers set up in their respective penalty boxes. Like usual, soldiers found a way to make the best of any situation, and soon pick up hockey games were underway. Ultimately, our stay was short and sweet; the 2 nights in Southern Alberta being over before we knew it.
On a Sunday evening we arrived in Vernon, B.C. at the Vernon Army Cadet Training Camp. We did 2 musical rides over the next 2 days for hundreds of young eager solders in attendance. Tuesday evening the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Lyle Johnson was in attendance to receive the salute from the troop. He was pleased to have us for the visit and expressed as much after the ride to the solders of the troop. Our rides in Vernon started with 16 mounts and riders, but due to injuries to both soldiers and horses we soon had to go down to a 12 person performance. The Musical ride is all about structure, formation, timing, spacing, counting, and numbers. Albeit not as aesthetically appealing, a 12 man ride is basically the same and allowed us the time needed to rotate horses for the remainder of the trip in order to give them a rest from the B.C. heat.
From Vernon it was a "quick" day trip to Abbotsford, B.C. where we spent 6 nights, performing 5 rides at the Abbotsford Agrifair. Hundreds of spectators showed up each day in the +30 degree B.C. heat, and the reception and applause we received was welcoming & appreciated. Our hosts for the event went above and beyond. Mrs. Susan”Mamma” Krocher and Agrifair President Mr. Ernie Silveri ensured the troop had everything we needed to make us feel at home! The team of cooks headed by Miss Cathy Jacobs ensured the troop ate like kings the entire time we were there. There’s a tradition during the intermission of the rodeo where the Abbotsford Police Department battles the Fire Department in a Tug-O-War. However, with the Police Department having other commitments, the Strathcona's stepped up and challenged the Firefighters. It was all set to go but at the last minute the Firefighters claimed they couldn't get the man power to participate. Of course this sounded way too much like an excuse to me and I hope that next year they might be up for the challenge. The final evening of our stay at the Agrifair saw President Mr. Ernie Silveri and Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman host a steak BBQ at the community hall where we stayed. It was a great BBQ with all the fixins and even a couple of beers. They topped it off with the annual ice cream sundae making competition which literally put a cherry on the top of a great outing. The fantastic cooking staff saw each soldier off with an individualized lunch bag for the road trip so that we could have some “home cooking” on the road; this gesture was truly appreciated and really showed how much the Troop means to the organizers of the event.
From Abbotsford it was a 2 day road move back to Edmonton through the Rockies. With more than 3,100 km over 13 days, 8 musical rides and few days at the beach, members of the troop were glad to be home.