Serv­ing as a fam­ily

The North Saskatchewan Reg­i­ment opened its doors to the com­mu­nity over the week­end to show how they train, what they do and how they come to­gether as one

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - PETER LOZINSKI

The North Saskatchewan Reg­i­ment opened their doors to the pub­lic Satur­day

Ram­sey Bel­lisle lives to serve his com­mu­nity.

The long-time para­medic has been a part of Prince Al­bert for years. But what many may not know is he also serves his coun­try as a mem­ber of the army re­serves.

Chief War­rant Of­fi­cer Bel­lisle has been with the North Saskatchewan Reg­i­ment, a light in­fantry re­serve unit based in Prince Al­bert and Saska­toon, for 24 years. Dur­ing that time he’s met his wife, made life­long friend­ships and served two tours of duty over­seas. For Bel­lisle, it’s all about ser­vice.

“I joined the mil­i­tary be­cause I wanted to serve my coun­try,” Bel­lisle said. “I thought about it on a na­tional level. Since high school, I have served my com­mu­nity as a para­medic, mu­nic­i­pally and provin­cially, and na­tion­ally as a soldier.”

Bel­lisle had mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to trans­fer over to the reg­u­lar force, but he’s happy to stay in the re­serves.

“This is my reg­i­ment, this is my fam­ily,” he said. “I met my wife here, my son is now in the reg­i­ment, and I’ve got a lot of brothers and sis­ters in the reg­i­ment. They’re not my blood brothers, but we’re all fam­ily.”

The North Saskatchewan Reg­i­ment, which trains out of the Prince Al­bert ar­moury, was one of dozens of units from across the coun­try that opened their doors to the pub­lic for an open house Satur­day. The event was meant to show peo­ple what other com­mu­nity mem­bers can do, in an ef­fort to re­cruit more to join their cause.

The lo­cal unit had their weaponry and a ve­hi­cle on dis­play, as well as other gear. They also held demon­stra­tions of their train­ing. Us­ing blanks, they nav­i­gated through ob­sta­cles as they closed on an en­emy com­bat­ant.

That’s just one of the ways the group trains twice a week.

“All of our sol­diers are trained to op­er­ate these firearms and op­er­ate these sup­port weapons in the con­duct of their du­ties,” said com­pany com­man­der Capt. Kurt Luchia, point­ing to the demon­stra­tion ta­ble where the firearms were lined up. There was a C9 light ma­chine gun, the sec­tion sup­port weapon, the C7A2 ser­vice ri­fle as well as one with an M203 grenade launcher at­tach­ment. On the far right side of the ta­ble was the Carl Gus­tav, an anti-ar­mour weapon that looks like a bazooka but fires like a ri­fle. On the floor nearby was other equip­ment, in­clud­ing gas masks and other per­sonal equip­ment. The unit was also sam­pling some of their freeze-dried meals, which sur­pris­ingly tasted like the real thing.

“Typ­i­cally, as a light in­fantry unit, we do our work on our feet, and we do that in courses and train­ing abroad,” Luchia ex­plained.

It’s a mis­con­cep­tion that re­servists don’t de­ploy. Sev­eral mem­bers of the North Saskatchewan Reg­i­ment in Prince Al­bert have been on mis­sions.

“We just had five sol­diers de­ployed to Bri­tish Columbia for the for­est fires,” Luchia said. “Five sol­diers, straight from Prince Al­bert, get­ting to help other Cana­di­ans.”

One of those sol­diers was Cpl. Kevin Tourond. He’s been with the unit for six years, but the wild­fire mis­sion was his first de­ploy­ment.

“It was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for me,” he said. “It was my first do­mes­tic de­ploy­ment. Hope­fully not my last.”

Tourond was in B.C. for just over two weeks, clear­ing hot spots and help­ing pack up hoses. Other mem­bers of the team were pulling sprin­klers off the line and mon­i­tor­ing water pumps.

Tourond said it was “sur­real” be­ing in the af­ter­math of a wild­fire like that.

“It was very dif­fer­ent train­ing that what I’d done be­fore. It was a to­tally new ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

“What I got from it was keep an eye on your fire and be vig­i­lant all the time.”

As the sol­diers of the North Saskatchewan Reg­i­ment train for any­thing, they be­come one big fam­ily. That’s a key part of be­ing part of the reg­i­ment.

“We are taught very early that com­pany and unit or reg­i­ment means fam­ily. That’s one of the main things we’ve em­braced with ev­ery­one who has come into the com­pany,” Bel­lisle said.

“We’ve de­ployed to­gether, we’ve done some very chal­leng­ing things to­gether on ex­er­cises and op­er­a­tions at home and abroad. Hav­ing each other to­gether has been what’s able to get ev­ery­one through it.”

Bel­lisle knew the reg­i­ment had his back when he went to Bos­nia to aug­ment the Princess Pa­tri­cia ‘s Cana­dian Light In­fantry (PPCLI) sec­ond bat­tal­ion in 1997, and then again with the PPCLI in Afghanistan as a part of the pro­vin­cial re­con­struc­tion team from Sept. 2009 un­til May 2010.

“It’s like you didn’t leave,” Bel­lisle said. “We were still re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion, care pack­ages and email­ing back and forth. It’s eas­ier to de­ploy be­cause I know I have guys back home check­ing in and mak­ing sure my kids are okay.

“We did it for other peo­ple when they de­ployed. You’re just look­ing af­ter the guys.”

PETER LOZINKSI/DAILY HER­ALD

(Top) mem­bers of the North Saskatchewan Reg­i­ment ad­vance on an armed tar­get dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise. (Bot­tom) A soldier throws a mock grenade at an en­camped tar­get dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise.

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