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The Story of 20154, LCol Scott Gillingham, CD, and the Making of 77 Line Regiment

Feature photo: The author, M2088 OCdt Jeff Stewart-Taylor with 20154 LCol Scott Gillingham

The Art of Regimental Construction in the CAF: The Story of 20154, LCol Scott Gillingham, CD, and the Making of 77 Line Regiment

Jeff (“ST”) Stewart-Taylor

An article by: M2088, OCdt Jeff (“ST”) Stewart-Taylor, CD

It’s funny how a good plan seems to come together. I was dropping my name all around CFB Kingston in order to secure an On the Job Training (OJT) placement, in particular with a Signal unit. Purely by chance, a friend of mine, who I have known for some time and an alumnus of the first Reserve Signal Squadron (Sqn) I had signed onto at the start of my career, introduced me to the Deputy Commanding Officer (DCO) of 77 Line Regiment (Regt). On my behalf he indicating to the DCO that I was searching for willful employment for my summer OJT. After a short chat. With a disclosure of my previous experience as a Signaller, the DCO invited me to come by the Regt Head Quarters (HQ) and meet the Commanding Officer (CO). With the prospects of actually working for a Signal Sqn I was motivated, but I had never heard of 77 Line Regt, so I was especially motivated and a little intrigued to learn more about this unit. Needless to say, I showed up on “the lines” and was introduced to the CO, and subsequently the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM).

To those of you who know me, my outgoing personality, service experience, positive attitude and professional demeanour secured me a position at 77 Line Regt as the Assistant Regt Adjutant (R Adjt), and the rest was history. What an excellent learning opportunity I have had with the Regt HQ, and I have formed a bond of comradery with my fellow staff members at this unit. However, it was overtime that the pieces of the puzzle as to what the purpose of this Regt was, and where it came from, fell into place. Once I realized the full extent of my extraordinary fortune of completing my OJT with 77 Line Regt, and the way this Regt came to be inspired me to write this article. Enjoy!

***

There is a common saying that is prominent in both the military and civilian cultures that implies that knowledge is not as important as your connections in order to advance in life. Be that as it may, the long term result may not be as qualitative if in fact that knowledge was present at the onset of the position or task. In the case of 20154, Lieutenant Colonel (LCol) E.A.S. Gillingham, Class of 1997, the CO of the Canadian Armed Forces’ newest independent Regt, it was a special knowledge and timing, not connections that earned him the rare, and unique opportunity to engineer the formation of a Regt. But not just any Regt. This was a unit that would have an area of operations whose expanse covers the entire country, and beyond. Furthermore, the Regimental responsibilities are focused on an essential service that can only be delivered by the trade referred to as “Lineman.”

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Lineman” trade, it is currently one of the specialized trades found under the umbrella of the Army Communications Information System Specialist (ACISS). These rugged and dedicated soldiers are the Line Systems Technologists (LST) who are the first personnel on the ground for any operation or exercise. They construct and maintain the very backbone of the communications networks that we so take for granted. Yes, these are the men and women who are dispatched in the worst of conditions in order to maintain vital networks in order for the rest of CAF to operate.

Or as LCol Gillingham will tell you:

“These soldiers operate with a motto of immense integrity, honest in their assessment of your performance and wear their personalities on their sleeve. Be well prepared for the unique learning opportunity like no other in the Royal Canadian Signal Corps (RCCS).”

And he should know; he has worked amongst these craftsmen for almost twenty years. LCol Gillingham’s first assignment was an OJT as a future signal officer during summer phase training while attending RMC. This assignment placed him with 1 Line Troop, a unit that had been in existence since 1952, from whence his experience with the Line trade began. Later in his career, as an experienced Signal Officer, the LCol was assigned to 1 Line Sqn, but this time as the Officer Commanding (OC) in 2009.

For historical reference it should be noted that 1 Line Troop was disbanded in 1997, and reformed as 1 Line Sqn as part of 79 Communication Regiment. Coincidently, LCol Gillingham will once again be commanding 1 Line Sqn, but this time as CO when 77 Line Regt absorbs 1 Line Sqn in Nov 2017.

Between then and the present, LCol Gillingham has been associated with the trade, and knows what to expect of this military sub-culture.

“Experience is something you possess after you needed it,” commented LCol Gillingham when I asked him how he was so fortunate to be handed such as auspicious appointment.

Further, given his exposure and insight into this tightly-knitted comradery that reflects the trade he has been given the responsibility of command over, his experience is indeed his greatest asset! It is no wonder that this experience was recognized by the Director of Signals in Ottawa who put the LCol’s name forward for consideration into the competition to select one of the key architect and first CO of the 77 Line Regt.

I asked LCol Gillingham as to what was the main contributing factors that resulted in the formation of CAF’s newest Regt. According to the LCol Gillingham:

“Infrastructure line capability that has changed significantly over the last several decades. Originally well-organized with appropriate authorities to support both DND infrastructure (cable plants and antenna structures) and CAF operational requirements, the stand-down of Canadian Forces Communications Command (CFCC) was the first of several root causes of the organizational decline due to the loss of single authoritative voice providing standardized direction which resulted in the division of infrastructure line resources among multiple organizations and chains of command.”

Recalling the stand-down of CFCC and the rise of the Shared Services Canada (SSC) authority within the timelines of my own career, and having served under the command of Shared Serves Unit (West) (SSU(W)) at CFB Suffield, AB, prior to my RMC posting, I asked if SSC was involved in this matter. LCol Gillingham continued by saying:

“Yes. With the stand-up of SSC, the responsibility to maintain DND cable plants was taken away from the Information Management Group (IM Gp) along with the funding for the tools and equipment to maintain them. The CAF and DND line capabilities had already begun to slowly erode over the last few decades due to many factors and organizational changes, none as drastic as the recent effects of SSC. However, after several years of the SSC direction it was realized that this system was not producing the desire effect of qualitative output that was necessary to sustain the responsibilities of Line projects and maintenance.”

Curious as to the turn of events that eventually led to the Regt’s formation, I inquired as to exactly when the direction began to turn. With a sense of relief, LCol Gillingham responded:

“It was at the 24 Mar 15 Information Management Board (IMB) meeting, that the recommendation from the Line Capability and SSC Transition Working Group (LCST WG) that there was a need to centralize the CAF infrastructure line capabilities under the Canadian Forces Shared Services Group (CFSSG) was tabled. At the 19 Nov 15 Program Management Board (PMB) the proposed idea of a centralized DND/CAF infrastructure line capability was approved. The proposed operating model would be implemented through a two-phase approach. Hence, the 7 Communications Group (7 Comm Gp) was formed, with 77 Line Regt being that key element that would bring the trade back to its previous, unified state.”

While reflecting on that early transition period to the current state of gel the trade has experienced since the formation of 77 Line Regt, LCol Gillingham recalled:

“We needed to dispel the sense of confusion in the trade. There was a loss of continuity with these dedicated specialist soldiers due to a lack of standards across the country, and we needed our guys in the field to re-establish that time honoured perspective that was beginning to fade,”

The LCol further elaborated:

“Selection to construct and eventually command this new, independent Line Regt resulted in no time to celebrate in the opening days. There was a great deal of work: from establishing a command and control concept of ops; developing and executing a communications plan– ultimately taking on the responsibility of the national line program of work would be a team effort.  The formation of the command team enabled planning and execution to take place in earnest. This is where CWO MacKnight, the Regt’s first Sergeant Major, and chief architect of what would eventual evolve into 77 Line Regt, came aboard.”

CWO B.R. MacKnight

I asked LCol Gillingham to explain why he referred to CWO MacKnight as the “chief architect” in the creation of 77 Line Regt. His response was quite justified in his assessment of the Regt’s first RSM:

“I refer to him as such due to the fact that he spearheaded the 2013 working group to analyse the mounting problems in the SSC management of the Line operations. Furthermore, the CWO was the driving force in getting the approvals to improve the situation. Although my name was submitted along with several other worthy considerations for CO of the new Regt, I often wonder if he had a say in my selection.” 

I sensed a bit of pride in his recollection. LCol Gillingham continued:

“Together we started to lay the foundations of this vital operation. The plan was to establish a Regt HQ that would pull in four Sqns that encompassed the entire nation together. The former COs of the recently disbanded Shared Services Units, rebranded as Regional Line Sqns would now become OCs. From there, the OCs would coordinate with all the detachments within their regional area of responsibility.”

At that point, I asked the LCol how just two people could take on such a Herculean task? His reply,

“We, the “twisted pair” (referring to himself and the RSM) quickly realized that we needed another set of hands to assist in the immense undertaking that it would take to bring this Regt on line, and on time. So I plucked Major Rob Stroud, fresh from his French course, straight into the fold as the DCO. The three of us made up the HQ staff, and with the four Line Sqn OCs in place, so began a constant onslaught of emails and phone calls through our ‘crackberries’ (a slang term for the Blackberry phone). This endeavour was continuous; day and night. Consideration the multiple time zones across the country produced a layer of challenge we had to overcome by being available longer … no bench to assist – evenings, weekends, or even on leave in order to strengthen the connections between HQ and all the regional commands. It was hard work! Particularly when you consider that the three of us that made up the HQ had no additional resource personnel; no financial or logistics support. There was  a great deal of coordination with my chain of command in 7 Comm Gp, the various committees and boards that required updates on our progress, creating a new unit identification code (UIC), but our greatest goal was to get the Regt up and running.”

“Critics?!” I asked. His reply with a slight smile:

“Yes, critics. There were those who doubted my team’s ability to bring this new, independent Regt to a state of effective operational status. With a well-coordinated team, the development and use of performance metrics to measure and enhance our success, and a great effort on everyone’s part we were able to advance goals and objectives! The Ministerial Organization Order 2016004 signed to create 77 Line Regt was inked on 31 May 2016, which was a big step enabling 77 Line Regt to open its doors for business.”

Nodding at the tremendous accomplishment, I asked the CO of 77 Line Regt how the HQ Sqn ended up here at CFB Kingston. The reply was obvious. He stated:

“There was a need for physical separation from 7 Comm Gp HQ in Ottawa. I had been working out of a cubicle in Ottawa co-constructing the Regt HQ with my superiors in the immediate area. It was agreed upon by my staff (CO, RSM and DCO) that there was a need to establish our Regt HQ at a proper ‘Home Station’ away from Ottawa and CFB Kingston filled the requirements. After all, aside from Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics (CFSCE), there are several units with LCols commanding them here, specifically CFJSR and 21 Electronics Warfare Regt (21 EW); and now ‘77’ to re-emphasise ‘Home Station.’ After gaining the appropriate approvals through convincing arguments, we set up shop here in Nov 2016.”

When I asked the CO of 77 Line Regt about how he got the message out to his people that Regt HQ was established, and serving the interests of those under his command, LCol Gillingham replied:

“Early on it was difficult – given the geography – to establish a rapport with the members of the unit now under my command, but there was a need to institute a common understanding from emerging on to the scene to a daily routine. We were there to enable the detachments that now formed the best part of the organization. The Regt HQ needed to demonstrate credible Command and Control of all our ‘ambassadors in the field’ without degrading the exceptional service. It had to begin with a welcome introduction to all members of 77 Line Regt. The ‘twisted pair’ began to publish a quarterly newsletter titled ‘The Cable,’ in which members of every detachment whether located in St John’s or Comox (and all locations in between) could share stories in order to keep the entire unit informed of the goings-on. Participation was encouraged, and I called out for any pictures, events or other unique activities that were connected with the detachments for publication in the periodical.”

I had an interesting question for LCol Gillingham, “What was the inspiration behind the design and motto for 77 Line Regt Badge?”

His response:

“It is quite an involved process to be granted a Regt badge, especially one that represents a craft that has been around since the early telegraph days in the late 1880’s. Essentially, the origins of the 77 Line Regt badge is an evolution of the badge that represented the 1 Line Troop that disbanded in 1997. On behalf on the Regt, the RSM and I submitted the former unit’s Badge to the Directorate History and Heritage in Ottawa to be examined by the Chief Herald for a new design to rise from the old. The new Regimental Badge for 77 Line Regt came back without the globe, but retained the pole; a symbol held in revere by the Line trade since its inception. Consequently, the English-scripted motto of “Through” for 1 Line Troop needed to become bilingual, and was transcribed into the Latin-scripted motto of “Usque Ad Finem” which represents essentially the same motto. Currently our Badge received Ministerial approval on 16 May 2016, but awaits Royal ascent.”

 

I had but one more question, “Sir, what do you hope to leave as a legacy for your hard work and dedication to the making of the 77 Line Regt?”

Humbly, he remarked in an atypical army fashion, “to leave it in a state better than I found it!”

I laughed, completely understanding the context of that statement.

The LCol continued:

“My intent, as long as I am the CO, is to continually improve the Regt for succession, and to enhance the pride of the Regt. Considering the roles that the three of us played (CO, RSM and DCO) as the sole initial members of the 77 Line Regt HQ to bring this project online, ahead of schedule and in a qualitative state, it is my duty to one day handover command to a successor that can sit in the CO’s chair, which I have had the pleasure to occupy, and begin to build on the foundational legacy we had laid down.”

With that final note, I put down my pen and thanked LCol Gillingham, 20154 Class of 1997, the CO of the CAF’s newest independent Regt, 77 Line Regt, for his time. The opportunity to be involved in the construction of a new Regt in the CAF is indeed rare and tedious, but given the background, experience and gained knowledge that LCol Gillingham has acquired over his nearly a quarter of a century career as a Signal Officer, soldier and RMC Alumnus, the required architecture could not have fallen into better hands. This is an example where good leadership complimented with an outstanding team and incredible effort can result in the realization of an almost seemingly colossal feat; making a Regt,

***

If you have read this far, I hope you enjoyed this article. Sadly, at the time of completing this article, my days are numbered for my OJT at 77 Line Regt. Moreover, this is my last hurrah as an OCdt, and student at RMC. I have completed my studies, and will have been commissioned to the rank of Lieutenant with further preparations for the adventures that await me in my ongoing training as both an Army, and Signal Officer. I wish you all the greatest of success in all your endeavours, and remember to never lose focus on the goal!

“HIC MANEBIMUS OPTIME!”

Note: I advise that if you attempt to translate the above Latin script, do not simply use an online translator. Search the script, read the origins, and take heed of its enduring meaning. The intent of these words may one day help you in a time of need.

VVV

“ST”

R.I.P 15026!

Special note: M2088 Jeff Stewart-Taylor was promoted to Lieutenant this past week.  Congratulations!

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