Polish Chief of the Army Visits Strathcona’s
By Captain Matt Johns
Saturday 2 August 2008 saw the Harvey Building, home of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), become the site of a historic meeting. Lieutenant-General Skrzypczak, the Chief of the Polish Army, met with Lieutenant-Colonel Derek Macaulay, Commanding Officer of LdSH (RC) and the Regimental Sergeant-Major, Chief Warrant Officer Joe Ramsay, in order to conduct a brief on the evolving use of the Leopard 2A6M main battle tank and the Light Armoured Vehicle Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (LAV TUA) system in the contemporary operating environment.
Flying into 408 Squadron from CFB Suffield in a CH-146 Griffin, Lieutenant-General Skrzypczak was accompanied by the Chief of the Land Staff, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie and members of his personal staff. The General Officers were escorted by members and toured the Harvey Building. After an unscheduled stop for coffee in the Mariner Room, which had subalterns scrambling to prepare, the visit moved to the Simulation Centre where a briefing was presented to the visitors.
An in depth presentation on the evolving use of the Leopard 2A6M was given to Lieutenant-General Skrzypczak. Touching on LAV TUA, the capabilities of the Coyote reconnaissance vehicle and the evolution of tanks within the Canadian Forces, Lieutenant-Colonel Macaulay made the most of this superb opportunity to speak directly to two Army chiefs. Highlighting the capabilities and challenges which faced the Armour Corps and the Strathcona’s specifically, the Generals left with a detailed overview of the demanding operational tempo facing the Regiment.
Once the briefing was concluded the guests moved into the hangar area and had the opportunity to speak to the resident experts about their particular vehicles. Corporal Jessie Scheller and Trooper Jean-Philippe Cormier, members of Reconnaissance Squadron, demonstrated the full capabilities of the Coyote reconnaissance suite. The LAV TUA was a show stopper with Sergeant Kevin Lincez and Corporal Lance Mackinnon demonstrating the capabilities of the Improved Target Acquisition System. Sergeant Dan Charette and Corporal Colin Johnston also shared some first hand operational experience regarding the Leopard 2A6M and its employment in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan. Without a doubt both Generals got a superb, once in a lifetime chance, to speak directly to the experts as well as see the equipment in person. It was definitely a spectacular opportunity to truly see what Strathcona’s do!
Once all the briefings were concluded and the visitors had had their chance to see all the vehicles being employed, Lieutenant-Colonel Macaulay unveiled a special surprise for the Polish General. The Commanding Officer presented Lieutenant-General Skrzypczak with an engraved 105mm High Explosive Squash Head casing. This round, returned from overseas, was fired from a tank in Afghanistan and then engraved with a dedication to the Polish General. Lieutenant-General Skrzypczak, deeply touched by the gesture was overjoyed, hoisting the shell up in delight and even planting a kiss on the polished round. The Polish Chief of the Army then reciprocated by presenting Lieutenant-Colonel Macaulay with a plaque dedicated to the Strathcona’s from the Polish Army and the Commanding Officer with one of his own badges, pinning it to the Commanding Officer’s beret.
Retiring to the Edmonton Garrison Officer’s Mess for lunch the tour ended early in the afternoon, with everyone thoroughly impressed by the quality of Strathcona soldiers. The Regiment was particularly proud as the Strathcona’s were the only 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group unit that was visited by Lieutenant-General Skrzypczak. Without a doubt, the Polish tour was a tremendous success and furthered the developing bond between our two armies.