Rangers stand tall
First Canadian Ranger Patrol on parade
by Derek Neary
NNSL (Apr 06/98) - Fifty members of the First Canadian Ranger Patrol Group converged on 440 Squadron Hangar in Yellowknife for a parade Thursday afternoon.
With only three days to practise for the 20-minute parade, the Rangers faced a challenge to keep in step.
"We're trying to puzzle it all together. That's the most difficult part," said Master Cpl. Abel Aqqaq, from Taloyoak.
Thursday's parade was held to commemorate the delegation of control to the North by a ministerial order signed in November.
"We have made the Ranger unit here in the North a complete unit with a commanding officer," said Col. Pierre Leblanc, commander of Canadian Forces Northern Area. "So it's now a discreet entity."
The occasion marked the first such gathering of the Rangers in four years. The last time was during a visit by the Queen. The next time will be on April 1 of next year to mark the legal recognition of Nunavut.
Three thousand men and women comprise the Rangers in 52 communities across the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
Their primary duty is to act as the eyes and ears for the Canadian Armed Forces in the North.
"We're out in the field in each community to report suspicious activities," Aqqaq said.
They keep watch for submarines and airplanes, added Master Cpl. Salomonie Jaw, who was selected by his 26 fellow Rangers in Cape Dorset to attend Thursday's parade. "I'm very happy to be here," he said.
Among the Rangers' other duties are search and rescue, first aid and performing exercises and drills.
"We're always on stand-by. If the RCMP or the search and rescue need help, we will be there to assist them," said Jaw, who has been with the patrol for 22 years.
"I guess we're all volunteers."
Sgt. Allan Bablitz, a veteran of the Canadian Forces, said there's a huge difference between working for the military and being a Ranger.
"They're entirely different," he said. "A Ranger in the North is a skilled bushman."
"Improvisation" is the key to being an effective Ranger, according to Bablitz, a resident of Carcross, Yukon. If you need something you either forge for it or make it, he said. Learning to survive by negotiating rough terrain and building shelter is crucial, Leblanc said. "The Rangers in the North are perceived to be the toughest of all the Rangers because of the conditions."