Story and photos by Buzz Bourdon (late the RMR 1975-82)

Ottawa, Ontario – 26 August 2016: A good summer job, the chance to explore a new city, the honour of representing their regiment and the Canadian Armed Forces to the world, these are a few of the reasons that led nine army reservists from The Royal Montreal Regiment to spend three months in Ottawa during the summer of 2016 with the changing the guard ceremony.

Wearing the colourful scarlet tunic and towering bearskin cap of the Canadian Grenadier Guards (CGG) – one of three Montreal militia units that originally founded the RMR in 1914 – the nine RMR reservists helped stage the world-famous ceremony on Parliament Hill during July and August.


Parading with the Ceremonial Guard (CG), the Ottawa-based, composite unit that trains reservists from across Canada for the ceremony, the RMR soldiers impressed two to three thousand spectators per day with their sharp weapons drill and precise parade square marching. Each soldier was armed with a  C-7 automatic rifle, complete with bayonet. There are no live rounds in the magazine.

Marching in perfect unison across the green grass of the Hill’s east lawn, under the brooding, neo-Gothic architecture of the centre and east block, and the 300-foot high peace tower, the RMR soldiers paraded, in rotation, as members of the ceremony’s old guard or the new guard. They also stood sentry at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the queen’s representative, the governor general of Canada.

RMR CG 2016_CThe parade kicked off every day at 0945, weather permitting, when the troops stepped off smartly from the downtown Cartier Square Drill Hall, led by the Band of the Ceremonial Guard. The reservists hit the grass of the east lawn exactly at 1000, as the bells of the peace tower struck the hour.

A chilling reminder of the ways things are now are the dozen or so RCMP officers patrolling the east lawn to keep the ceremony safe, both on the street around the lawn and inside the street on the grass. They all wear their sidearm but many are also armed with a C-8 automatic rifle.

Feeling proud on the Hill…

Cpl Nicholas Talarico, a six-year RMR veteran, said it’s hard to describe the feeling marching in front of all those people and cameras. “You get that sense of pride – there’s no words to describe it but you know you feel something.” He was a member of No. 6 Division, of No. 3 Platoon.

Talarico – his father Pino is a major in the militia and his brother Mike is a sergeant in the RMR – says the best thing about CG is “being with the boys, the teamwork through good times and bad. We’re all in it together. I’m not the only one sweating on a hot day, we all are.”

For Cpl Daniel Pavlenko, who joined the RMR on Oct. 23, 2013,  parading on the Hill “feels great when people are clapping. You have a sense of pride being on parade.”

There’s no doubt that wearing a thick scarlet tunic during the hottest part of Ottawa’s summer takes a special person who doesn’t mind the discomfort. It often hits 30 degrees centigrade during July and August, or higher, and the heat means the scarlet tunics are usually soaked through when the troops get on the bus after the half-hour parade.

Pte Chris Randall-Coss, also a member of No. 6 Division, said he was only a “little nervous” the first time he marched on Parliament Hill. He’s been in the RMR just over two years and will study finance and international trade at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business in September.

“It wasn’t that bad (and) you have your friends beside you. By the time the parades started we’d been drilling about a month so it became instinctive. (It’s) different. I’m used to field stuff and hadn’t done a lot of parades, not like CG, not full-time. It takes some getting used to,” said Randall-Coss. He expects his promotion to corporal in early September.

Pte Katherine Amber Forrest, who drilled with No. 5 Division, should also get her second stripe very soon. She joined the RMR in February, 1914, and came to CG because she wanted to do something different. “CG was the longest class B contract available this summer. Ottawa is also a good place to be in the summer, lots to do and see.”

It was a bit hard to get into the swing of things, she said, because she’d been on leave from the RMR for almost a year, traveling in Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia for five months. “After two days it started getting easier. There were lots of things to learn but we had very good morale. The veterans from last year gave us tips and helped a lot.”

Forrest also appreciates how the section commander instructors treated the rookies. “We were treated (like it’s) a tasking, instead as if a course. We got more respect because they understand that we’ve been in the army a year or more.” She’ll be starting her first year in social work at McGill University in September.

The other RMRs who were on CG in 2016 were:  Sgt Loic Parnell, MCpl Liam Carroll, Cpl Felix Parnell, Pte Chris Marchand and Pte Pecl Coriolan.

There have actually been RMR reservists on CG every decade since the CGG and Ottawa’s Governor General’s Foot Guards (GGFG) took over the ceremony in 1970 from the Canadian Guards of the regular army. Retired chief warrant officer Peter “Butch” Gannon did it in 1972 and 1975, and in 1984 when he was a member of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. In 1979, six RMRs were there, including Fred Bazan,  Adrian Grant and Jon Pfeiffer.

Our cousins the British Guards…

RMR CG 2016_BThe ceremony, which kicked off on June 26 for the 2016 season,  the day after Gov.-Gen. David Johnston inspected the entire Ceremonial Guard at Rideau Hall – he is colonel of the regiment for both the CGG and GGFG –  is based on the changing the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, in London, England. There, the soldiers of the Household Division – made up of the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards – take their turn to guard the Queen’s London home. They also guard St. James’s Palace and Windsor Castle. Queen Elizabeth II is colonel-in-chief of all seven regiments of the Household Division in Britain, along with the CGG, GGFG and Governor General’s Horse Guards.

Other units of the three British services have also done it from time to time. In 2000, a company from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, from CFB Gagetown, had the honour of staging the ceremony. The 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment also did it at the beginning of the Second World War and the Van Doos did it again in 2014 as part of their centenary celebrations.

How we do it in Ottawa: what happens during the ceremony…

Here in Ottawa, the format is different because the ceremony is not held at Rideau Hall, the residence of the governor general. Parliament Hill is much more convenient for tourists to get to and there is adequate space to accommodate them.

After both divisions of the duties – each one has 18 soldiers,  plus a corporal and div sergeant – march out of the drill hall behind the band, they go west on Laurier, north on Elgin and finally west on Wellington before they reach the east lawn. After a series of manoeuvres, the duties finally take their place, in line, facing west.

The Guards, both in Britain and in Canada, have always been famous for the excellence of their parade square drill and their steadiness on parade.  The ceremony on Parliament Hill is a showcase to display this. Swinging their arms shoulder high in perfect unison while marching with heads held high, striking their C-7 rifles smartly while shouldering, ordering or presenting arms, driving the body while doing foot drill, all these are hallmarks of Guards style drill that has impressed people for generations.

Now, some might think that such a heavy emphasis on ceremonial drill is a waste of time in today’s modern army, but others know that it develops discipline, pride and fighting spirit, all qualities that are vital on the battlefield. As someone said during the retreats of the Peninsular War 200 years ago, “Those must be the Guards, they still have their rifles!”

Across the broad expanse of green lawn stands a division of the old guard, which theoretically was coming off duty from guarding Rideau Hall. The whole point of the ceremony is to transfer duty from the old guard to the new guard. If the governor general is in residence at Rideau Hall, the officers wear a gold sash around their waist and the Queen’s Colour of the CGG or the GGFG is on parade. If he isn’t, a plum-coloured sash is worn and the Regimental Colour is carried by the colour ensign.

After the company sergeant-major takes over command of the duties, he inspects both div sergeants, then commands both divisions of the duties to “get on parade.” Both divs march forward and halt in perfect unison, to the tune of “The British Grenadiers.” Meanwhile, the old guard stands perfectly at ease, their C-7 rifles thrust out to the full extent of their right arms. Nearby, the officers promenade, back and forth as the band plays traditional military tunes.

The ceremony, replete with military symbolism and tradition, is living testament that the British infantry once fought shoulder to shoulder in long ranks for hundreds of years, loading and firing their muskets at the enemy. In fact, Britain won its world-wide empire partly because its soldiers were trained, through harsh and unforgiving discipline, to fire three rounds a minute.

After the parade commander inspects the duties – he makes sure their uniforms are well turned out and their rifle barrels are clean – both those divisions are now called the new guard. They are now officially fit to take over the guard. Then he crosses the lawn and inspects the old guard one final time to say goodbye, well done, so long.

Even though the ceremony follows the exact same format day after day, the troops have to concentrate every minute. Losing concentration, even for an instance, can prove fatal. “You have to pay attention or else you’ll miss a command, or you’ll be a second late in moving, which is very noticeable,” said Pte Forrest. “It’s a little bit stressful, sometimes things change like a new div counter or you have a new sergeant of the guard.”

Here’s some inside information the tourists will never know: each division has a soldier appointed as ‘div counter.’ He or she stands in the exact middle of the rear rank and counts out the time so the others can hear it and keep their rifle drill movements in perfect unison. Softly, though, so the tourists don’t hear it. Of course, the three div counters on parade have to have the timing down perfectly among themselves or else disaster could ensue. It is a thankless but important task.

The colour and what it represents….

Now comes the climax of the parade, which has certainly been seen by several million people since it was first staged in 1959. The colour, which is in the infantry is always carried by a subaltern, or junior officer, and guarded by two NCOs with fixed bayonets, is trooped along the front of the new guard in slow time, as the band plays ‘The Grenadiers Slow March,’ (CGG) or ‘Figaro’ (GGFG). This gives the soldiers the chance to recognize it, in case they have to rally around it in the heat of battle.

Not that colours are carried in battle any more, but they were until 1881 in the British army. Each infantry battalion, including the Guards and the RMR, carry a stand of colours: the Queen’s Colour, which symbolizes loyalty to queen and country, and the Regimental Colour, which symbolizes the regiment, what it stands for and what it accomplished in peace and war. Both colours are a regiment’s most prized possession and losing them to the enemy in battle was the worst disgrace possible.

Actually, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry initially carried a colour in the trenches during the First World War and quickly abandoned the practice due to the impracticality, but it was not an official colour because it had not been properly consecrated. The colour was embroidered personally by Princess Patricia of Connaught, the daughter of the governor general of Canada, the duke of Connaught. She was the first colonel-in-chief of the PPCLI, until her death in 1974.

Normally, the national flag of Canada is used as the background for a Queen’s Colour but in the Guards, it is crimson. The national flag is used for the Regimental Colour in the Guards. Both colours in the Guards have the unit’s battle honours embroidered on them while line units such as the RMR have them only on the Regimental Colour. Rifle unit do not carry colours at all but rather display their battle honours on their drums. The Guards also have small camp colours for each of their companies. Each Guards company has a badge which is rotated in turn on the Regimental Colour, when a new stand is presented. Retired colours of the CGG may been seen hanging high up in Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral. RMR colours are laid up in Westmount’s St Matthias’ Anglican Church.

The end of the parade…

The final act of transferring the duty occurs in the middle of the lawn, when the commander of the old guard and his opposite number with the new guard march out smartly and halt in front of each other. The old guard commander gives a large brass key to his colleague, who sticks it in his sash. The key symbolizes the key to the guardhouse at Rideau Hall, where the troops on sentry for the day are based.

Both officers then turn about and march back to their respective guards. The parade commander orders the troops to slow march and, at a dignified pace of 65 paces per minute, both the old and new guard march towards Wellington street. They change to quick time after they leave the grass of the east lawn.

About 15 minutes later, the parade arrives at the drill hall, the colour is marched off and lodged in the officers’ mess and the troops get back on the bus. Another day, another parade that exemplifies the history and heritage of the Guards in particular and the Canadian army in general.

RMR CG 2016_A

On sentry at Rideau Hall…

Besides marching in the daily parade on the Hill, the RMR soldiers also stood sentry at Rideau Hall. The first pair of sentries – one is the senior sentry and the other is the junior – arrive at their post at the front gate of the 88-acre grounds at 0900. They are brought there by the posting corporal, who marches just behind them. A piper from the band plays them there.

The sentries, who stand guard with their bayonets fixed on their C-7 rifles in front of their sentry boxes bearing the lion of the governor general’s crest, symbolize the army guarding the home of the queen’s representative. There are also two military police officers present with loaded weapons. A nylon barrier prevents the tourists from coming too close to the sentries.

Usually there are two pairs of sentries on guard from 0900 to 1700 – they are relieved every hour on the hour – but there was only one pair on duty for the summer of 2016. The second pair, which always stood guard on either side of the front door of Rideau Hall, was absent because of the renovations to the building. Hence the officers, during the ceremony on Parliament Hill, said, ‘two by day’ instead of ‘four by day.’

An hour might not seem like a long time, but try standing there properly at ease, in the sweltering heat of the summer, with sweat running down your face under that big black bearskin cap. If you itch somewhere, you have to ignore it. To relieve the strain and the boredom, you and your partner are allowed to march your beat, which symbolizes protecting the grounds. One of the sentries taps his rifle butt sharply on the ground, the other acknowledges it with a tap, then you come properly to attention, take a step forward, shoulder your rifle, turn outwards and start marching for nine paces before doing an about turn, always outwards, before coming back.

The sentries can march their beat as long as they want. If a major, or above, comes by, they present arms. Captains and below rate a butt salute. If royalty or representatives of royalty suddenly appear, then they present arms. Each sentry pair is reminded about their orders every time they take post because the posting corporal reads them. If the governor general happens to come home in his limousine, the driver will flash his lights three times so the sentries know to present arms.

Keeping your sanity at Rideau Hall…

Hundreds of people watch the sentries every day, and sometimes  their reactions are amusing, or silly. Pte Felix Parnell, who joined the RMR in October, 2012, was the senior sentry when he was on stag. He drilled with No. 6 Division. “I always find it interesting to hear what people say. “’Are they allowed to blink?’ or, ‘are they allowed to breathe?’ At one point someone said, ‘are they allowed to move?’ so I slammed my C-7 butt on the ground to call a beat.”

The trick, as generations of sentries have discovered, is to avoid eye contact with the people. Many tourists try and make the sentries laugh, which if successful is not dignified at all. It used to be a bit easier at the gate because the sentries stood on a wooden walkway about a foot off the ground. They could look over the heads of the people and it was easier on the feet, too, than standing on concrete like they do now.

Pte Pecl Coriolan, a two-year veteran of the RMR, knew what to do when a tourist tried to make him laugh. “I heard him say that to his kid so when they came close I called for the beat. It took five minutes for the kid to calm down – he wasn’t expecting it.” Coriolan is about to start his second year at McGill in physical education.

The Ceremonial Guard today…

The mission of CG is to “conduct public duty operations in the National Capital Region in order to enhance the presence and image of the CAF/CA, and foster engagement with Canadians while maintaining our military traditions and providing our soldiers with training and challenging opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities and professionalism,” said Capt Michael Wonnacott, CG’s public affairs officer for 2016. He’s  from Hamilton’s Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s).

CG is commanded by Maj Patrice Villeneuve of the regular army’s 12e Regiment blinde du Canada, and the regimental sergeant-major is CWO Donald Reid of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Both are regular soldiers who will be in their jobs for about three years.

The unit is organized into three sub-units: the Public Duties Company, the Band and Headquarters Company. The latter had 45 people in it for the summer of 2016: administration clerks, drivers, supply personnel, all the unsung heroes who keep things running smoothly behind the scenes.

The band paraded 145 musicians from across Canada, almost all of whom are students studying for their bachelor or masters’ degrees. They are all accomplished musicians who had to pass a demanding audition to be hired. Some return for several summers. Leading the band on parade (not at the same time) were two drum majors, each wearing a splendid scarlet tunic embroidered with gold lace, and carrying a mace.

The Public Duties Company mustered 163 people for the summer of 2016, including the nine from the RMR. There were a total of 81 units represented, including 77 from the Canadian army, three from the RCN and one RCAF squadron.

Here are the numbers from a few of the militia units that sent people: 12 from the Brockville Rifles, 12 from the Black Watch of Canada, 13 from the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, seven from the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment, ten from the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, seven from the Royal Regiment of Canada, ten from the Windsor Regiment and the same number from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

Ironically, the CGG sent only 16 soldiers in 2016, while the GGFG sent 32. That’s a far cry from the company of 80-100 they each sent to CG in past decades. Back in the day, both those units owned CG, although a few reservists from other units were lucky enough to do it from time to time.

Besides deploying a platoon on the Hill at the end of July for Fortissimo, an annual, military musical extravaganza – the entire band played and the platoon fired a feu-de joie for each of the three performances – the soldiers of the Public Duties Company also mounted a very small arrival guard for President Barack Obama of the United States on June 29.

On July 1, the company mounted a vice-regal guard of honour of 100 soldiers on Parliament Hill for the governor general. Also on Canada Day, the Guards were present at a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the battle of Beaumont-Hamel, held at the Canadian War Museum.

Learning to love drill: it’s fun, really!…

The 2016 season kicked off May 8 when the CG leadership, the officers, staff instructors and support personnel arrived in Ottawa to organize things. The troops arrived two weeks later. For the next month, drill and more drill was the order of the day, drill in the morning and drill in the afternoon.

Although everyone knew the basic movements of Canadian Forces rifle and parade square drill, it was important for the troops to learn to work together in their respective divisions. That takes several weeks of often painful effort to achieve. One person drilling on Parliament Hill would look ridiculous, 60 soldiers moving in perfect unison is impressive. You strike the weapon and drive the body on the parade square, that’s the Guards way.

Day after day, no matter how hot it got, the troops learned to march and drill in their respective divisions. They also learned how to slow march, at a stately cadence of 65 paces per minute, and change direction by forming. Sentry drill came later. Tribute must be paid to the section commanders who actually taught the drill, using their voices and personalities to motivate their people. It’s a hard and demanding job, to say the least. You are responsible for the administration, instruction, discipline and morale of your division of about 22-25 people.

For Sgt Loic Parnell, an eight-year veteran of the RMR, the intensive drill phase was a lot of hard work. He first went on CG in 2010. “It was not easy waking up at 0600 doing PT and working out in the sun till 1700, sometimes even later…! But I’ve been through worse. As an instructor out there I really didn’t have a voice at the end of the day. The hardest part to instruct was getting everybody (marching) together at 120 beats per minute.”

Supervising No. 3 Division of No. 2 Platoon and wearing the scarlet plume of the GGFG in his bearskin cap, Parnell remembers one incident that left quite an impression. “During intensive drill, it was Friday afternoon and the RSM had the habit to come out to see if the troops’ progress was good enough to get off for the weekend. It was a really hot afternoon and the last thing we wanted to see was the RSM. All we wanted was to (finish).”

As RSM’s are wont to do, CWO Reid took over the parade and started to give a series of drill movements, recounted Parnell.   “Then he called a stand at ease. That’s when I noticed one of my troops had a bayonet stabbing right through his leg in the knee joint area. Instantly, I ran to help him. He had brought his leg so high and with such tremendous drive that he managed to jam his left leg right into buddy to the left of him’s bayonet!”

Quickly overcoming his shock, Parnell helped treat the injured soldier and he was sent to hospital. “I had never seen a drill related injury and that was a first. After which there was a puddle of blood on the hot scorching asphalt. The RSM called us to attention, we did two extra drill movements as though this accident never happened and …. he dismissed us. I’m guessing what he meant after that incident is that it was enough for one week. We got our early dismissal… A nice cold beer was waiting for me at home.”

The job isn’t done when the drill is over, though. After dinner, there’s more work to be done, this time with the soldier’s personal kit. The uniform must be ironed and the white belt, frog and bayonet have to be cleaned. The C-7 rifles are cleaned periodically. Then there’s the heavy black leather drill boots, which must be spitshined until they look like black mirrors.

The art of shining boots (and it is an art)…

Spitshining in the Guards has long been considered an art. It can take two or three hours. First you brush the dirt and dust off the boot with a soft brush. Then you take a Kiwi cloth, put it on top of a forefinger, dip the finger in cold water, put some Kiwi polish on it and start making magic. You shine the boot by making little circles on its surface. When the polish on the tip of the forefinger is gone, put some more on. Over time, the surface of the boot takes on a brilliant shine. Some people pick up the technique quickly, some take longer.

Pte Forrest said she was lucky because she managed to get an older pair of boots “that were a lot easier to shine than the newer models. Your boots are your most prized possession. Now I spend 20 minutes a boot – before it was 45 minutes.”

Cpl Pavlenko got lucky, too. The new boots adopted by the Canadian Forces some years ago are very hard to spitshine, apparently. “My boots are one of the best. I was one of the lucky ones because I have the old style boots. They take ten minutes each. A couple of times on inspection the officer told me, ‘they’re great.’”

The daily routine…

Although life was pretty hectic for the troops during intensive drill, things got better at the end of June when the daily parades started. Afternoons were free, unless there was a special parade to perform. But if the parade in the morning wasn’t up to standard, then extra drill was ordered for the afternoon. The troops worked six days on, three days off.

Reveille was at 0600, followed by a muster parade 20 minutes later to make sure everyone was present. After breakfast, the troops got dressed in their scarlet uniforms and drew their rifles. A  careful inspection at 0800 was followed by some warm-up drill to get the juices flowing. Then it was on the bus at 0845 for the short trip to the Cartier Square Drill Hall.

What did the troops do during those long, hot summer afternoons when they were off? You could explore Ottawa and its museums, go to the gym and work out, sleep, read in your room – the troops lived in single or two-person rooms at Carleton University – hit the bars in the evening with your buddies and see what the night brings in terms of female companionship. Oh yes, you also did your kit for the next day.

There was even a tango class if you wanted to learn how to dance. Pte Forrest thought it was “super fun. It’s funny to see all those infantry tough guys learning to tango.”

In the beginning…

The daily routine hasn’t changed much over the almost six decades since the changing the guard ceremony was first performed by the 1st Battalion, Canadian Guards, in August, 1959. Queen Elizabeth II came to Ottawa at the beginning of her royal tour and the 1st Battalion mounted a royal household guard for her on Parliament Hill, from June 29 to July 2.

It was the first time that the Canadian Guards, formed on Oct. 16, 1953, had been dressed in scarlet full dress uniforms. The new regiment had been created by LGen Guy Simonds, the chief of the general staff, to add colour to the post-war army.

“He believed that a truly national infantry regiment, that would glamorize the ordinary foot-slogging infantryman, was needed. The other (regiments) were too parochial. He had a fondness for elite units that could set a standard of excellence, and made it no secret that he admired the British Brigade of Guards,” wrote retired BGen William Patterson in his 1997 book, “A Regiment Worthy of its Hire: The Canadian Guards 1953-70.”

On July 1, 1959, the 1st Battalion, Canadian Guards was back on Parliament Hill as three militia units, including the CGG, were presented new colours by the Queen. The CGG was first in line to receive their colours from their colonel-in-chief. It was the first time in Canadian history that the reigning sovereign had presented colours to an army unit.

The following day, on July 2, the 1st Battalion performed the changing the guard ceremony along with its band and corps of drums. For the next 12 days, people from all over the world had the opportunity to admire the pomp and pageantry. Six sentries, in rotation, were also on guard at Rideau Hall during daylight hours.

The ceremony proved so successful and popular that the Ottawa Board of Trade asked the army if it could be repeated the following summer. The army agreed and the Canadian Guards’ 2nd Battalion was given the tasking, from July 2 to Sept. 15, 1960.

Over the following decade, a company from one or the other Canadian Guards battalions spent two months in Ottawa performing the ceremony. But in 1969 a division from the CGG and the GGFG were added to the Public Duties Detachment. The regular army was being downsized and the Canadian Guards were reduced to nil strength in 1970.

The two militia Guards units now had the ceremony for themselves, starting the summer of 1970. PDD, which had been based at CFB Rockcliffe during the 1960s, remained there until 1985. The name was changed to Ceremonial Guard in 1979 when women were allowed to march with the men.

The troops drilled on the old runways near the Ottawa River and lived in 40-man barracks that were pretty spartan. You had your bed, the upper or lower bunk, a locker and two barracks boxes. Showers and toilets were about 60 or 70 feet away in another shack. The dining hall took 15 or 20 minutes to walk to and the food was excellent. The Squires Club was a good junior ranks club.

The social life was good, too. You could drink in the Squires with your buddies, go out on the town after your kit was done, look for girls to meet. Guys were always doing crazy things to create good morale. One summer, circa 1982, an entire division of 23 guys had their hair dyed blond, for morale, of course. There were platoon parties, at least one per summer.

One time in the early 1980s a bunch of guys partied in Hull for something like 18 nights in a row, or was it 23? That’s when bars in Ottawa closed at 0100 but across the river in Quebec they stayed open another two hours, until 0300. It may have been a bit crazy but it was CG and they had fun. That’s what you do when you’re young and full of piss and vinegar. Two hours sleep before PT at 0600 and a parade later? No problem, let’s do it again tonight!

To sum up, good times and bad were shared, close friendships were made and bonds formed, forged within the discipline and comradeship of the Guards. Some stood the test of time, others did not. Regardless, the memories, sights and sounds remain, the sweat, the laughter, the soreness from pounding your feet on concrete and asphalt day after day, bending the knee parallel to the ground, the taste of cold beer after drill in the sun, ordering pizza late at night, the crack of  hands striking FN-C1 forestocks exactly together…

Was it worth it?

Cpl Talarico said he’d recommend CG to anyone. “You get to perfect your drill and it’s an awesome job. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it again sooner or later. It’s a good, long contract. My brother did it a long time ago so I wanted to try it. I was jealous listening to the RMR guys who had clickers on their boots from CG so I decided to do it myself. I’m having an awesome summer, I like being away from home since I’m an independent guy. I have lots of friends here from my two years playing hockey in the Ottawa area.”

Our work here is done, we’re outta here…

The final parade of the 2016 public duties season was held on Parliament Hill on Aug. 21. Happy to return home to Montreal, their families and a new school year, for those who are students, all nine members of the RMR will resume training at their unit in early September.

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