The Class of 1974: Questions Asked & Answered as They Entered the Old Brigade

The following is the transcription of a speech given by a representative of the Class of 1974 to members of the Old Brigade on the occasion the Class of ’74 admission to the Old Brigade.  The speech was given after dinner on Saturday September 14, 2019 during Reunion Weekend 2019.

RMC Class of 1974 Dinner Presentation to the Old Brigade

Kingston Ontario

September 14, 2019

In 1974, Brigadier-General William Turner, the Commandant of RMC, said of the graduating class – us – that:

I have a great sense of pride in every one of them in what they have achieved in the past four years and what is opening up to them in the future…they will leave here this weekend and go out and face the world with tremendous confidence.”

So, how did we face the world?

Where did we go?

What did we do?

And how did we get to where we are today – here – at this dinner?

To find answers, we asked.  The responses were enthusiastic and filled a book (hold up).   I’ll save you the trouble of reading it now and just outline a few of the things we learned.

How did we face the world after the grad parade?   Two classmates immediately sailed to the Caribbean in a boat they parked behind the Stone Frigate.  Most took leave (if they could), completed qualification training and went on to serve in the Army, Navy or Air Force.  In the end, over 80 percent served beyond their obligations.  More than 1/3 completed full careers filling the officer ranks up to Major-General.

Where did we go?  Everywhere, the Arctic for example.  Classmate engineers constructed a runway at Pond Inlet, a camp at Eskimo Point, and a water pipeline to Dumb Bell Lake.  A classmate pilot slung 5-ton battery packages from Eureka to Alert.  Another pilot helped test torpedoes under the Arctic ice.  Other aircrew flew air transport resupply missions.  A classmate doctor treated soldiers for rabies.   One of our class hunted caribou and muskox, fished arctic char, and trekked Franklin’s overland route from King William Island to Starvation Point.  One fell through the ice.

Other examples include regions of war.  The conditions and situations varied.  Classmates found themselves, for example – using the floor as a desk during a UN mission in Sudan – going into the Iran-Iraq war zone with a briefcase and cover story – facing an armed winter tour in Bosnia on the eve of retirement – training British field engineers in mine clearance operations after the Falkland War.  A classmate Naval Officer commanded at sea in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo, and another (who spent 11 years afloat), served as Executive Officer at sea in the Gulf War.  Another classmate was in Washington near the Pentagon when it was struck on 9/11.  A civilian classmate in Yemen learned that Al Qaeda had attacked their business facilities resulting in the deaths of employees.  In Cyprus, a combat officer convinced the Turks not to fire on Greeks who were depositing “night soil” in the Buffer Zone.

Some served in regions of disaster.  A classmate on exchange to the US Army in Frankfurt monitored radiation fallout maps after the Chernobyl nuclear accident.  Another, who was coordinating Canadian assistance to Kobe earthquake victims had seen disasters before, but nothing like this:  the modern part of Kobe was rubble – the old part was gone.  Three of our pilots ejected from four uncontrollable aircraft – one did it twice.  Another made an underwater escape after a water crash.  Another – whose memory we honour – was lost during an attempted ejection at low altitude.  One classmate, working for NASA, determined details of the final moments of the STS-107 Space Shuttle Columbia after it crashed in 2003.

What did we do?  Most served in Canada as military officers, civilian public servants or both.  One commanded at Oka, an historic event notable for the lack of casualties. Naval engineer classmates designed and managed construction of new ships.  One classmate became an internationally recognized chief scientist of CRAD and set up a cyber defense section.  Another designed dams and powerhouses, managed R&D and protected the environment by counting fish (in a wetsuit), herding buffalo (in a helicopter), and rescuing deer from flooding islands.  Classmates filled senior positions in the governments of the NWT, BC, Saskatchewan and Alberta.  One was the Operations Manager at Ontario Science Centre.  Another coordinated the design and construction plans for The Banff Centre.  One of our classmates brought video technology to court rooms.

Many served the business community.  Examples include a former air traffic controller who got an MBA and became a Corporate Vice President of a major US company.  Another, a lawyer, is the CEO and Chairman of not-for-profit company that leases aircraft to the RCAF to train military pilots.  Another managed a manufacturing plant of 650 personnel.  A former senior officer navigator joined General Dynamics Canada as the Director of the Canadian Aerospace Program.  A classmate, who took the “six-year route” – but never quite made graduation – became a software developer involved in several start-ups.  Another was President and CEO of a large charity.  One teaches high school math, to students smarter than he!  Another teaches kindergarten French-immersion.

How did we get here?  Many through advanced degrees like Masters, PhDs, MBAs, JDs, MDs, teaching certifications from other great institutions, to name a few.  Through training and experience our class has come to include lawyers, medical doctors, airline pilots, engineers, architects, professors, teachers, book authors, Snowbirds, Top Guns, senior executives, senior public servants…and… a beekeeper who believes that the life of a worker bee is the most selfless and provides much that can be learned.

Where are we today?  A lot of golf – 38% of the class. Many club champs including a reigning Men’s Champ.  Five holes-in-one (two by one person).  One, who flew in war, is proudest of setting the competitive course record at the CFB Trenton by shooting a 6 under par 66, a record that still stands.  Another shot 66 but couldn’t remember if it was on the front or back 9.

But it’s not just golf.  Two played on CF championship hockey teams, winning six times.  A number ran marathons.  One classmate has run 23 of them.   Another ran 24 consecutive weekend runs of alternating 10 K and half-marathon races.   He also competed internationally in the 20 K Biathlon on one day and the Giant Slalom race the next.  One represented Canada twice at the International Triathlon Union world championships.  We have a World Masters Hammer Throw medalist.  We also have a National Powerlifting Champion who came 4th in the World Championships last year and will do better this year.

And finally, most married and many had children.  Many spoke of their wives with reverence, love and respect for their energy, ability and patience – and the pride of long marriages, many lasting 40 to 45 years.  One couple met on a service flight.  Another married his date from the 1972 Christmas Ball – 45 years later.  Two best-friend classmates and hockey players married sisters.  A divorced member of our class travelled 32,613 km to meet a woman for their first date and is now married again.  One helped with this talk.

What emerged from this, in composite, was the complex story of an RMC class that “went out and faced the world” by living up to the ideals of our college and making positive and exceptional contributions to our country, both in military, civilian and personal life.

In this, we are no different than you – our seniors and senior officers of the Old Brigade.

We are honoured to join you.

Today.

One final note.

56% of the class still iron their own pants.

5 Comments

  • Christine Fernie

    January 15, 2020 at 12:54 am

    Wonderful speech. I enjoyed reading your synopsis of the many aspects, the multitude of contributions on many levels of many lives with a few twists of fate thrown in. Congratulations to the members of the class of 74 on your admission to the old brigade.

    TDV M0478

  • Peter Hoes

    January 15, 2020 at 9:23 am

    The classmate, who spoke at the Dinner, conceived of the idea and conducted the compilation effort. He deserves to be recognized here so thank you, Bob Banks. Along with the enjoyment of reuniting with so many classmates, your unique retrospective was the highlight of Reunion Weekend 2019
    for me. Once again, well done!