11551 Ray Richards: CWHQ Memories from 1976/77

First in a series: CWHQ from back in the day.

To preface my comments, I am not certain how Cadet Officer appointments are currently made, what their terms of reference are and so forth, however I understand they may be somewhat different to what was done in the years leading up to 1976/1977.  At that time, Cadet Officers at RMC held their positions for the entire final year, and they were fundamentally responsible for all aspects of the Cadets’ lives under their command.  Note this was different to Royal Roads who changed Cadet Officer appointments three times during the academic year and finished with a short “Honour Slate” for Graduation.

Clearly, there was a lot of mentorship and oversight provided by the College Staff, however, barring fundamentally flawed judgment, we were permitted to make our decisions and run the Cadet Wing.  As an aside, during my four years, I did not see or hear of anything that required the College Staff to step in.  Not saying that all decisions were great or achieved their intended purpose, but often we learn more by having to own up to and sort out our mistakes.

CWHQ Cadet Officers were housed together on the top floor of LaSalle.  It was a great group of guys, and we enjoyed a high level of camaraderie – particularly in the little lounge we created and spent many memorable moments devoted to the original Star Trek series!  Given the breadth of responsibilities, I decided to have the DCWC (Paul MacDonald) act as Chief of Staff and take direct responsibility for coordinating/overseeing all the activities of CWHQ staff and I concentrated on the Cadet Wing.  We each held separate weekly OGps – Paul with CWHQ and I with the CSLs.  Paul did a fantastic job, and I can’t remember ever having to get involved with any of those responsibilities.

As with all Classes our year had some unique situations.  The Class of 1977 (intake 1973) was the first Class to include UTPMs, however it was a very different program from what it is today.  At that time, UTPMs were only required to attend classes with us – not dissimilar to ROTP or UTPM cadets who attended a civilian university.  Therefore, they did not participate in Recruit Term, do the Recruit Obstacle Race, drill or PT classes, parades of any kind or sports (although a few of them volunteered for Varsity Rugby), if memory serves.  This is not an indictment of any kind – they hadn’t “signed up” for the “ROTP” program, we didn’t begrudge them their autonomy, we were happy to have them in classes with us, and they became very good friends, some of whom still attend our reunions.

Also, we were one of the two “Centennial Classes”.  Although the major focus of the Centennial was the 1976 Graduation and presentation of the Queen’s Colour on Parliament Hill, the fall of 1976 was an equally busy time with the Centennial Ex-Cadet Weekend including the unveiling of “Bruce” and the laying up of the old Queen’s Colour.

The Class of 1977 was also the last year that held their Cadet Officer appointments for the entire year.

The following is a more in depth look at my personal experiences as CWC vis a vis interaction with the College Staff.

The Commandant was BGen W.W. Turner, the DCdts was LCol C.Riley and the ADCdts was initially Capt Bob Millar who was replaced by Maj John Selkirk in January when Capt Millar was selected to attend Army Staff College in Fort Frontenac.

My terms of reference left me with very little contact with the DCdts.  My immediate superior on the College Staff was the ADCdts.  I met with him several times per week, and more frequently during periods of high activity.  I was extremely fortunate in having both these extraordinary officers as mentors.  They were extremely calm, intelligent, insightful and strong leaders.  They did not “meddle” in the running of the Cadet Wing, but were clearly very aware of everything that was going on.  During discussions with them, they treated me almost as a peer instead of the very young, naive man that I was.  Although this was not completely lost on me at the time, I couldn’t really appreciate the unique opportunities they gave me until much later in life.  Looking back on it, I am always amazed at the latitude they gave me.

My other significant contact was a weekly meeting with the Commandant, BGen Turner.  He was an extremely fine gentleman whom I admired greatly.  Given his vast experience from 35 years of experience earned on the battlefields of NW Europe and in key leadership positions, I anticipated these weekly meetings would (and should) be somewhat “one-sided”.   In fact, it was the exact opposite.  There were always a number of points of information that needed to be passed on, but these aside, he would always solicit my opinion on other matters.  I don’t recall him ever saying “do this” or “do that”.  These weekly meetings would be in his office, and he would make a point of conducting them somewhat informally around the small coffee table he had in his office.  He would always preface the meeting by asking “What’s on your plate today?”  I would give him a rundown of everything that was ongoing and what our plans were.  Most often he would not comment – whether he thought them good or bad, he would let us continue on.  Again, I’m sure he would have never permitted us to go fundamentally astray, but gave us the best gift possible, which was to learn from experience.

Although there were a number of situations where I felt my input was valued, there were two specific instances that illustrate this.

The first concerned the Cadet Officer appointments and their duration.  Having spent my first two years at Royal Roads, I supported a system whereby Cadet Officer appointments changed during the year to allow everyone in the Senior Class to gain valuable leadership experience.  Not that I didn’t enjoy being the CWC – quite the opposite – but I felt giving more cadets leadership experiences was a better system.  I broached this idea with BGen Turner in November 1976 and proposed our current slate of Cadet Officers end as of Christmas with a new slate from January to spring exams, then an Honour Slate be established for Graduation.  This represented a significant change to an RMC tradition that had existed since the College’s inception, and I could tell that BGen Turner didn’t exactly warm to the idea initially.  However, after further discussions and deliberations, he agreed that it would be best if more Cadets should benefit from these leadership opportunities and that, although he would not agree to implement this policy for our year, it was implemented for the 1977/1978 term.

The second concerned an NDHQ Directive regarding our Graduation Parade. The UTPM program at Military Colleges had evolved significantly over the four years since its inception in 1973 which saw subsequent years’ intake of UTPM cadets being more integrated into the non-academic activities of their ROTP classmates.  Late in our final year, a directive was received from NDHQ mandating the UTPM Cadets in our year would take part in all aspects of the graduation ceremonies to the same degree as their ROTP counterparts – being on parade, marching off the Square and so forth.  Given that our UTPM classmates had not participated (or extremely limited) in any of the non-academic parts of College life over their four years, both ROTP and UTPM cadets thought it was not appropriate for the UTPM cadets to participate fully in the “rites of passage” traditionally accorded only to graduating ROTP cadets. Although I felt certain that BGen Turner was very sympathetic to our concerns, it was, after all, an NDHQ Directive.  After significant discussion, I proposed that our UTPM classmates be formed up on the Parade Square during the Graduation Parade, but not participate in the marching.  Then, during the Awards Ceremony, they would be marched out front and centre and be individually presented with their Commissioning Scrolls after which they would march off the Square.  BGen Turner felt this satisfied the spirit of the Directive in that our UTPM friends were on Grad Parade, their achievements were clearly celebrated and they formally marched off the Square.

My overall views, experiences and memories of my Military College experience are difficult to articulate.  They were life-changing.  I would not part with them for the world.  The bonds of friendship formed during those years remain as strong now at they were when they were forged.  It is something that defies explanation, and can only be appreciated/understood by those who have experienced it, in which case no explanation is required.

11551 Ray Richards

6 Comments

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    February 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    I was a recruit in 5 Sqn in 1976 at the time Ray was the CWC, and I enjoyed reading this article. There are, however, a couple of corrections that are needed.

    First, the DCdts in that era was actually LCol “Ryley” not “Riley”. He was an RCR officer who in 1954 had been the CWC at Roads. He was also the same CES Ryley who was the author of the much celebrated “Fainting on Parade” memo that had been issued the previous year.

    The other more important clarification here pertains to the involvement of UTPMs in College activities. Ray’s article suggests that all the UTPMs were required to do was attend classes; that may have been the case when the first UTPMs arrived in 1973, but the policy had changed by 1976. In our year, the UTPMs reported on the same day that the recruits did – 22 August 1976 – and they did participate in some of the recruit orientation activities, albeit to a much lesser degree than was required of the ROTP and RETP recruits. If you look through the 1977 yearbook, it is possible to see photos of UTPMs marching alongside the recruits. As I recall, they also participated in the spring 1977 drill competition.

    The final comment I will make about this article is that I was pleased to see the name of Paul McDonald mentioned. He was great guy, and as D/CWC one of his responsibilities was to oversee the training of the recruits. Interestingly enough, years later when I was working at the business school at Western, Paul turned up as a new student in the Ph.D. program. He completed his Ph.D. about 25 years ago, and I believe he is now a professor somewhere in New Zealand.

    Anyway, thanks for an interesting article, it mentions some familiar names, and brought back a lot of memories. And truth be told, I think all of the members of the recruit class of 1976 would confirm that we have nothing but good memories of our old CWC.

    Thanks, Ray !

  • David Hall

    February 21, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Ray, good article. Having Gen. Turner as our Commandant was good for us. A fine man. Mike Kennedy’s “fainting on parade” shows what happens when you put too many bureaucrats in a room together. Not our finest hour. I hadn’t thought of all the guys we had up in HQ in a long time. Being up there for the full year meant we developed quite the camaraderie. Rick (Kutch) was across the hall from me. Paul Specht and I were A de C’s for Gen. Turner which I enjoyed because it limited the time I spent marching on parade. Bob Johnson as Mess Entertainment Officer had a room beside mine. All good guys. I’ll see you and, hopefully, plenty others at our reunion this September too. Prez Benda, Tim and Shag are well into the planning now.
    10950 DM Hall

  • Mike Hache

    February 21, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Good article Ray. I recall hearing that there was a significant change in the staff-Cadet leadership model that struck me as being rather pedantic and odd. I believe that it related to the leadership’s discomfort with the definition of Command or Commander being held by an Officer Cadet. I believe that it resulted in the CWC being re-defined as the Cadet Wing Senior, etc. I understand that this has since been corrected and, as you so well described, excellent leadership by the senior staff ensured both the best learning opportunities and a well-understood chain of command. I recall our time as the “good old days” and don’t remember us ever being confused about where we fit in the organization. It’s always about leadership, so thank you for yours and I look forward to seeing you, and many of the rest of the Class of ’77 in a few months!

  • David Mowat

    February 21, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Ray,

    Like Mike Kennedy, I also have a much different memory of the contribution of the UTPMs. Although they may have lived offsite, I recall them being on parade as Otter Squadron and having participated in the drill classes. More importantly, as a member of the RMC hockey team, I know that we had two great UTPMs on our team – Jimmy Hessel (forward) and Jim Grecco (goalie). I have no doubt Dave Hall remembers this – I still think he was one of the best hockey players ever to play for RMC. Jimmy was awesome, especially when we played down in the States/New York. The Americans loved him because whenever their booster club would host us after the game, he was always the go to guy who would keep them in stitches with all of his hilarious stories. However, the next year he was the Captain and led us to one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of the West Point/RMC rivalry – I still vividly remember the iconic picture of Jim at the end of the second period, his helmet cage up on his head, looking completely exhausted and utterly dejected and then on the next page, sheer elation when RMC came back to score three late goals and win the game.

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    February 21, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Although I did not really know him, Jim Greco was a UTPM in my squadron (5 Sqn). He is visible in the framed picture I have of the squadron that was taken in March 1977, shortly after the big drill competition (where we came second, the Frigate beat us by a hair). Coincidentally, I believe Ray Richards had also been in 5 Sqn in his third year.

    Looking back now, a couple of observations strike me about the UTPMs. One is, being much more mature than the vast majority of cadets were, they genuinely appreciated the value of the academic education at RMC. Consequently, they worked a lot harder than most of us did, and generally did very well.

    The other thing that strikes me, and in hindsight this was unfortunate, is that in many respects the UTPMs were an underutilized resource. As the people who represented the best NCMs in the Canadian Forces, and as people who in most cases had ten years or more of service under their belts, they could have been valuable mentors for the rest of us. I suppose in some cases this did happen on an informal basis, but there was no mechanism within the system in place to actively encourage this.

    My best reference to the UTPMs is, of course, a comment from Sergeant Major Fournier. This was made one day after a drill class in the spring, where our collective performance had been rather lackluster. After the mandatory stream of epithets (which I understand are no longer allowed in today’s highly sanitized environment) Fournier concluded his remarks with a rather ominous cautionary note at the end of the class. “If you want to know what would happen in a unit after a drill period like this” he said, “ask the UTPMs.”

    Back in the good old days !

  • Douglas Poucher

    February 23, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Hello Ray,
    Long time no see!…it’s been a while since those halcyon days at Royal Roads when you were one of my seniors. I’ll never forget you as my CSL and later CWTO, if I recall correctly, while in my first year in Hudson Flight. You were firm, but fair methinks, and every day was an adventure in good ole 3 Sqn, along with those Lasalle “animals”. We were also fortunate to have such a good Sqn Comd in Capt Joe Sharpe at the time (later BGen Sharpe).

    I found your remarks interesting and apropos, especially regarding how the “Roadents” were used to doing things regarding bar slates and leadership, which you later introduced at RMC…I didn’t know that! I do recall that the Mil Staff at Roads were very much hands-off and allowed us to run the Cadet Wing pretty much on our own, and I think we did a pretty good job overall. Also, the personal time and latitude that BGen Turner gave you as CWC and the Cadet HQ leadership at RMC is quite noteworthy, which during my time as staff at RMC in recent years has not been offered to the same degree. Regardless though, time moves on as RMC continues to improve and evolve.

    Anyway, thanks for your insightful comments and take care.

    Cheers,
    Doug Poucher
    11947