By Maj André Desrochers, Capt Wetson Werleigh and Capt Nicolas Gervais, 34 CER
34 Combat Engineer Regiment, Detachment Rouyn-Noranda, celebrated in style as it marked the 75th anniversary of its founding in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region. Activities began on 12 May 2016 with a cocktail reception that brought together a number of former members of 9 Field Engineer Squadron, which is the name that the unit went by until 2008. Several former commanders were also in attendance: Lieutenant-Colonel Benoit Doré, Lieutenant-Colonel Denis Gouge, and Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Cyr, who all played a major role in the detachment’s development over the years. A number of people from the civilian community also took part in the activity, including Member of Parliament Christine Moore, Marc Bibeau, a representative from the City of Rouyn-Noranda, France Simard, Director of the Aiguebelle Park, and Jean Fournier, a representative from the Canadian Armed Forces Liaison Council.
The highlight of the evening was the speech by Major André Desrochers, the commander of 34 CER, Detachment Rouyn-Noranda, that discussed the history of 9 Field Engineer Squadron, which became 34 Combat Engineer Regiment, Detachment Rouyn-Noranda, on 1 April 2008. He took advantage of the gathering to pay tribute to two people who left their mark on the detachment: LCol (Ret’d) Louis Cyr, the first Regular Force commander in Rouyn, and Master Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Guy Charbonneau, the detachment sergeant-major from 1970 to 1993. In addition, Major Desrochers highlighted the significant contribution made by all members of the regiment who have allowed the detachment to shine, both within the Abitibi community and within the other units of 34 Canadian Brigade Group.
The week of festivities celebrating the detachment’s 75th anniversary was a busy one. On 13 May 2016, at the Université de RouynNoranda, there was a happy hour event with a presentation by the Canadian Armed Forces Liaison Council that was aimed at explaining the role of Reservists and at how the employers present could benefit from hiring them. In the evening, there was a professional development activity for all of the soldiers from 34 CER; a number of topics were discussed, including resilience, which is something that Canadian Armed Forces members have in spades.
The day of 14 May 2016 was also jam-packed. Early in the morning, combat engineers took part in a major physical, team-building activity: Ex Sapeur Aguerri. The exercise was aimed at fostering the physical and professional excellence of soldiers from the regiment. Some of the challenges with which the combat engineers were faced included firing exercises in full combat attire (including gas masks), ax throwing, topographic navigation, and other skill tests. To conclude the exercise, all of the combat engineers had to complete a timed run of roughly six kilometres.
To wrap up all of the activities, the regiment paraded on the Place des Citoyens in front of the Rouyn-Noranda city hall. In honour of the regiment’s freedom of the city privileges, Maj Desrochers went to city hall with sword in hand to escort the mayor’s representative, Mr Bibeau. Honorary Colonel Marc Bertrand took part in the parade in a 1946 Willys Jeep, in a nod to the era in which the detachment was founded. Despite the rain, wind and cold, the dignitaries and spectators in attendance appreciated the soldiers’ poise as they marched together while the Fusiliers Mont-Royal band played on under the direction of the conductor, Captain Pierre Leblanc. That night, the Fusiliers Mont-Royal musicians gave a concert at the Immaculée Conception church. They performed a number of new, well-known pieces from film and television, which the crowd very much enjoyed. There were musical works from Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean, not to mention the wonderful combat-engineer piece “Wings”––we will never tire of listening to it, and it earned a hearty “Chimo!” from the crowd when it was over. We would like to highlight the excellent performance by the Rouyn-Noranda cadet bands that had the opportunity to accompany the Fusiliers Mont-Royal musicians on a few of the tunes. Those in attendance all enjoyed the flawless performance of the military musicians; they showed their appreciation by clapping for several minutes straight after the concert.
We would like to acknowledge the outstanding initiative of Major André Desrochers, the commander of 34 Combat Engineer Regiment, Detachment Rouyn-Noranda, and his team, which had the idea of organizing a Sunday breakfast fundraiser to benefit the Abitibi United Way.
All in all, 34 Combat Engineer Regiment, Detachment Rouyn-Noranda, celebrated its 75th anniversary with dedication and honour. We look forward to celebrating its 100th anniversary in a few years.