Who We Are
Today's Canadian paratroopers can trace their roots back to two highly distinguished units: the first Canadian Parachute Battalion and the First Special Service Force.
THE GREAT ADVENTURE
THE CANADIAN AIRBORNE REGIMENT, 1968-1995
With the commitment to NATO in 1949, the Army increasingly focused its attention on large mechanized units and the “inevitable” war against the Soviets in Europe. As a result, Canada’s paratroopers were continually pushed to the margins of military importance. The lightly armed and equipped airborne soldiers were seen as an anachronism in a world dominated by heavy mechanized formations. However, by the mid-1960s, a changing global environment soon changed perspectives.
Allard stressed strategic mobility. Specifically, he wanted a completely air-portable unit that could deploy with all its equipment into a designated operational theatre within forty-eight hours. Therefore, on 12 May 1966, the MND publicly announced that “FMC would include the establishment of an airborne regiment whose personnel and equipment could be rapidly sent to danger zones.” The regiment was designed to fill a gap in the Canadian strategy - it would provide an immediate response that could deploy immediately and provide a presence until the heavier mechanized forces, if required, arrived in theatre.
The unit was to be radically different. Except for aircraft, it was to be self-contained with infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, signals and supporting administration. The new Regimental Commander-designate Colonel Don H. Rochester stated that “all were to be volunteers and so well trained in their own arm or service that they could devote their time to specialist training.”
The Regiment’ s mandate was impressive. The Canadian Airborne Regiment was to be capable of performing a variety of tasks which included: the defence of Canada; the UN stand-by role; peacekeeping operations; missions in connection with national disaster; Special Air Service (SAS) type missions; coup de main tasks in a general war setting; and responsibility for parachute training in the Canadian Forces. The respective Canadian Forces Organizational Order (CFOO) stated that
the role of the Canadian Airborne Regiment is to provide a force capable of moving quickly to meet any unexpected enemy threat or other commitment of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Unfortunately, the Cdn AB Regt experienced disciplinary problems in theatre that detracted from their actual performance. Objectively examined, the Regiment’s actual contribution to the amelioration of the suffering in Somalia was extremely laudable. Their unremitting physical presence soon created an atmosphere of control, dominance, and security. The Airborne program was so successful that the Belet Huen HRS was declared ‘secure’ by UNITAF Headquarters in a period of less than three months. Its humanitarian effort was even more effective.
Our Regiment Today
Nonetheless, even upon its return to Canada, the Regiment was clearly tainted by Somalia. On the week-end of 4-5 March 1995, the elaborate and well-attended final disbandment ceremonies were conducted in Garrison Petawawa (then CFB Petawawa). The cycle had come full circle. On 6 May 1968, during Colonel D.H. Rochester’s opening address to the Regiment, he declared, “ahead lies the great adventure of this new regiment.” And so it came to pass - the end of an era, the end of the great adventure.
The Parachute Companies, within their respective Light Infantry Battalions, represent the nation’s current airborne capability. Although a shadow of its former self, this capability ensures that the art, skill, and more importantly, the airborne spirit survive.