Canadian Forces engineers celebrate 75 years of service

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With a switch from a dark green beret to a blue one, local Canadian Forces engineers celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) during a parade on Wednesday.

“Back 75 years ago, in 1944, this corps was created on the battlefield,” Brig.-Gen. Sebastien Bouchard, a mechanical engineer and the commandant of the Royal Military College, told the parade of local engineers from Kingston and Trenton.

“It was created on the battlefield because it was a requirement. It was a requirement for the army to carry on with the fight. They realized that if you don’t get some technicians, to keep equipment going, you could not carry on with the fight.”

Bouchard noted that it was very significant for the parade to be held at the McNaughton Gate, also known at the RCEME gate, as Canadian Forces Base Kingston was once home to the RCEME school: “This is where it all started for us.”

“We are able to embrace our history and we’re able to adapt to the situation,” Bouchard said. “You need to know where you come from if you want to know where you’re going.

“In order to be relevant, we’ve had to adapt to technology, to new equipment, to army doctrine, to get the job done.”

The school is now located at CFB Borden, but parades were held across the country on Wednesday, said Lt.-Col. Yves Turgeon. Turgeon, head of the department of applied military science at RMC, organized the event.

“Although we are a young corps, we have many accomplishments,” Turgeon said. “It is important that we highlight those milestones as much as we can.”

Turgeon explained that the engineers are experts in maintaining equipment and getting soldiers out of difficult situations.

“We are the jack of all trades, fixing all the kit that the army has,” Turgeon said. “The army has thousands, and thousands pieces of equipment behind the scenes. We are the kind of the lifeblood of the army.”

The change in beret colour will go out to all engineers in the Canadian Forces. Until Wednesday, engineers wore the colour of whichever element they were in. Turgeon said there are about 500 engineering technicians in, mainly, the army, air force and navy. In the Kingston and Trenton area, there are about 250 military and civilian technicians.

“After 75 years of fixing army equipment, 75 years of finding innovative ways to keep the army running, 75 years of good soldiering, of hard work and difficult environments, it has been 75 years of soldier first, technician always,” Bouchard said. “If you look at the past 75 years, just try to imagine the next 25 years … look how fast technology is evolving now. I would say that more and more the army will need us, will need a corps that understands equipment, and people who are experts in equipment capacity.”

scrosier@postmedia.com

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