OPERATION SAM STEELE
Written by Corporal Eli Lee
The Strathcona Mounted Troop (SMT) could not have found a better way to kick off the 2013 Ride Season. It started when Assistant Commissionaire Roger Brown, CO RCMP Depot Division, invited the Troop to take part in the opening ceremonies of the Sam Steele Collection at the RCMP Heritage Center in Regina Saskatchewan. Although Sam Steele is known to the RCMP as the third sworn officer into the North West Mounted Police, he is more famously recognized by SMT members as the First CO of the Lord Strathcona Horse Royal Canadians. Having the opportunity to celebrate the history of a founding member of both our Regiment and the RCMP was an opportunity that was too perfect to miss, and I found myself honoured to be a part of it.
The day the Troop departed from CFB Edmonton to Regina began with the new members of the Troop getting a quick loading introduction by Cpl Darren “Doc” Roberts. Fast learners, the new members were able to easily handle the no nonsense military way of loading 20 horses for a road move across Canada. Despite the steep learning curve, the travel day started smoothly and I settled in for 8 hours of very cramped and very “gasy” travel. The long drive took us directly into a storm which brought with it bleak scenery and hurricane force winds which tried to blow us clear off the roads and Ride Master Sergeant Paul Kruhlak clear out of his mind.
The first night at the RCMP Depot went off well and after stabling the horses at Dallas Valley Ranch Camp, the Troop set off to take advantage of the “famous” Regina night life. The next day’s events were only hindered by light rain, small ticks, and Sergeant Christopher Zubkowski’s long stories. We had horses on parade and promenading in front of the Heritage Center in celebration of the Grand Opening of the Sam Steele Collection. Captain Corey McLean took the instruction to bang on the door to announce to the public that the collection was officially open, a little too seriously. He scared several of the closest VIPs out of their seats and left the Heritage Center with a permanent indent of the butt of his sabre as another piece for their collection.
The following day was supposed to see the SMT on the RCMP’s Sergeant Majors Parade. However, consistent rain forced the parade indoors and for some reason the Sergeant Major did not like the idea of having 20 horses inside on his shiny parade floor. The Strathcona’s persevered and we quickly adapted to perform a modified Tent pegging display for 3 busloads of school children behind the RCMP Heritage Center. It was going quite well until our newest horse Supremacy thought he saw some ghosts at the far end of the tent pegging lanes, and his bucking forced Corporal Ayrton Balfour to abort his second pass down the narrow strip of land set out to us. The kids in attendance however enjoyed this rodeo like performance believing it to be another display of horsemanship. They enjoyed even more the loose saddle on Shadow which resulted in a very comical fall from Corporal Juan “sack of bricks” Daos. On the bright side of things, these mishaps worked out to the Troops benefit, giving the newest members of the mighty G-Unit (ground crew) to fall to action like heroes out of an action movie, catching riders, lances, and loose horses, before they could pose any real hazards.
There was a great event after the display when the Troop sat down to a very healthy meal of pizza and cake brought to us by the great people of the RCMP Heritage Center. While eating, World War II Veteran, Mike Sowa stopped by to visit. He is one of the few remaining survivors of the 2nd Armoured Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians) and was active in many battles against the Germans; most notable to all Strathcona’s the battle of the Melfa River in May 1944. This was a rare opportunity for the young Troopers and Corporals to talk to a seasoned Strathcona Veteran, and as the troops gathered around him to be regaled by war stories like little grandchildren, it was hardly noticed as the rain petered off and the winds calmed.
Upon return to CFB Edmonton we were thrown right back into the mix performing our first full Musical Ride of the Season for the students of Guthrie School. Our Ride Master’s Brother Marc Kruhlak from Shy Transport generously donated the use of Big Blue, his shiny Kenworth rig, to pull the horses to the school, thereby removing the need to risk life and limb (and a possible speeding ticket from the ever present MP’s) by trotting 17 horses along the highway. The excited faces of the children and the enthusiastic cheering were all the reward the soldiers needed as they finished a flawless Musical Ride and welcomed the kids forward to pet the horses. So far the Strathcona Mounted Troop has had a great start to the season with lots of good stories and surely more to come.