“Events outside of the college impacted us in interesting ways”
Article by 25366 Anna-Michelle Shewfelt
10420 Charles Kaszap (CMR/RMC 1975) recalls being a very quick sell on the idea of attending military college. He said, “We were seven children at home and my parents had stated they would support us through high school only because that was all they could afford. I was very strong in math and science and had made up my mind that I would go to university no matter what. Also, I longed for physical activity and sports as there was no gymnasium at the school I attended. The recruiters came to the school the fall after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, made a presentation on the military colleges, and I was sold right then and there.”
As he remembers, however, applying wasn’t quite that simple. “At home nothing was decided without my mother’s involvement. One of her brothers had been in the military during WWII and had been deployed to Europe for the longest time and she had not liked the experience. However, I knew that my father had been in the Hungarian army during the war and had valued the experience. I appealed to him one evening and he signed on the spot.” (As he was 16 at the time Kaszap required parental consent to join.)
One experience from his swearing in ceremony stands out for Kaszap, one which he sees fitting with the College motto of Truth, Duty, Valour. “At my swearing in ceremony at the Citadelle de Québec in Aug 1970 a Major Aide de Camp approached my father and told him that the son of a Maj Gen had tried to go to CMR St Jean that year and had not been accepted. That is when my father knew he had made the right decision in coming to Canada. He told me on the way back home that had I been in his country I would have been thrown out in the street and the general’s son would have gone in.”
Upon arrival at CMR, he found that the challenges were many but not insurmountable. “I was not big physically,” recalled the Loretteville, Québec, native, “which made the journey more physically demanding for me than for most of my classmates. I had also not been exposed to the military before which implied a steep learning curve. Also, having skipped grade 12, I found myself having to work harder academically in the latter years after my move to RMC where teaching was mostly in English.”
“Also, events outside the walls of the college impacted us in interesting ways. As Preps at CMR, our first permission to go home after the recruit phase happened in the middle of the Quebec October Crisis. Given the tense social situation in the province it was only logical to let us wear the civilian looking grey flannels, jacket, and tie No. 6 uniform instead of the customary military looking No. 4. The look in our seniors’ eyes said a lot about their disapproval of this change in policy, even if it was only temporary.”
He has many fond memories from his time at the two Colleges. These include meeting his first roommates, the CADWINS studies, the spit sessions to the sound of the top 40 hits on the radio, running the obstacle race in November after they broke the ice on top of the mud holes, the camaraderie, the occasional running of circles around the parade square early in the morning after being caught breaking CADWINS rules, the making of lifelong friends, the magic of Christmas and graduation balls, acquiring new knowledge and skills, discovering computers, and the sense of awe at the historical significance of both colleges and their locations.”
“I think the event that scared me the most during my five years at MilCols,” he said, “was an incident one day at noon at CMR in fall 1972 or winter 1973. We were all standing behind our seats at attention in the dining hall waiting for the announcements. Suddenly, the DCWC stood up, went to the microphone and announced that something serious is happening. He went on to describe the incidents at the Sino-Soviet border and expounded the virtues of duty to country. During many long minutes he talked about what we had already seen in the news the previous days but had dismissed. Suddenly it felt real. His tone meant business. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. I could see and feel my classmates’ mental gears grinding. We were imagining the worst, the colleges closing and everyone having to be deployed to a foreign land and… That is when the DCWC calmly announced, ‘And as a result, effective 1300 the dress of the day will be Great Coat and Astrakhan!'”
Following graduation, Kaszap served ten years as a Communications and Electronics Officer. There is much he is proud of during his service. Postings during this time included radar station CFS Lowther for one year and NDHQ Ottawa for three and a half years doing IT management and ultimately managing the CFSS network. In 1980 he was selected as an exchange officer with the USAF at Gunther AFS in Montgomery, Alabama for three years. “I received my first email address in August 1980,” he recalled. “It was for the Arpanet, the ancestor to the Internet. I helped draft specifications for the first USAF microcomputer bulk acquisition and for the first LAN at Gunther AFS from 1980-1981. The last 18 months were devoted to the production of the first USAF Base Level Information Systems Strategic Plan.” Following his return to Canada he finished his military career in NDHQ working in IT strategic planning for another two years.
After leaving the Forces in 1985, he accepted a position in the Air Engineering Division working on Navy simulators. From 1989 to 1997, he was the Chief Simulator Engineer, leading a team for the life cycle management of Maritime Air and Helicopter Simulators. Following two years as a Client Services Manager in Government Telecommunications and Information Services of their largest account, he came back to DND and became Project Manager for the 1B$, Contracted Airborne Training Services project from 1999-2004, then Senior Advisor, Integrated Management and Overnance for DND from 2004-2005, and Program Director Information Management Services Transformation Program for DND from 2005-2006. For the next two years, he was Director Information Management Consolidation and Rationalization and subsequently appointed Acting Director General Information Management Strategic Planning from which he retired in 2009.
Even after such an extensive career, Kaszap looks on the College with pride. As he said, “I would do it all over again. It was worth it!”