Biography

Capt Al Wakarchuk

 

Army Headquarters recently announced the promotion of Lt. A. Wakarchuk, to Captain in the Cadet Services of Canada. Capt. Wakarchuk, a native of Veregin, Saskatchewan, attended high school at Veregin, Kamsack and Saskatoon. In December 1944 he joined the Canadian Army and was discharged in August, 1946.

While attending University of Saskatchewan, he enrolled with the Canadian Officers Training Corps in 1950 and was commissioned in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps in Montreal in 1952.

He was enrolled with the Cadet Services of Canada in 1953 when he was appointed as assistant instructor of No. 1976 Sturgis Composite High School Cadet Corps. The Corps won the Challenge Proficiency Trophy for being the most progressive Corps of the year in Saskatchewan.

In the fall of 1954 he and Mr. K. C. Sauer were instrumental in organizing and forming No. 2485 Eatonia School Cadet Corps, tying for the proficiency trophy in Group "D" in 1955 and winning it in 1956 and 1957.

During the summer months at Prairie Command Cadet Camp at Dundurn he has held appointments of Platoon Commander, Training Officer, Recreation Officer and Second-in-Command of a Company.

At the Cadet Services of Canada Branch Association first annual meeting this fall, he was elected as an executive member of the CS of C Branch Association, Sask. Area.

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In 1960 I was employed as a classroom teacher at Moose Jaw Technical School, later renamed as A.E. Peacock Technical School. That fall I joined The Saskatchewan Dragoons (Sask Ds), a Militia unit. I was transferred from the Cadet Services of Canada in the rank of Captain. I held positions of quartermaster, paymaster, squadron commander, adjutant and second-in-command of the Saskatchewan Dragoons Regiment. I served under two Commanders, Lieutenant Colonel Harvey Ross and Lieutenant Colonel Don Calfas. I retired in June 1970 in the rank of Major.

During my service with the Sask Ds I was called out for summer employment at Banff National Cadet Camp in 1967 and 1968. Two hundred Master Cadets from all across Canada were stationed here for seven weeks for specialized training. There were four companies, each consisting of 50 cadets. In 1967 I was second-in-command of a Cadet Company and in 1968 I was CO of a sub-camp some 10-km from base camp. After two weeks of conditioning at base camp each company took its turn to live in the wildness of the Banff National Park. The sub-camp served as a training base for walking up a mountain, rappelling, crossing a river, crossing a canyon in a metal sling attached to a cable, elementary mountain climbing using mountain climbing equipment and bivouacking in mountainous terrain and wilderness. Black bear and cubs, mountain sheep, Rocky mountain goats (Dahl sheep) goat-like, shaggy white ruminant, with short black horns) were seen frequently. The Park Wardens had placed salt licks to attract the mountain sheep.

One morning, after having received instructions about the bears and how to avoid being pursued by them, I found myself standing between the mother bear and her two year old cubs. I slowly retreated back across the bridge of the Cascade River to the campsite. Had the cubs been less than two years old I may have had a different story to write.

The salt licks attracted Rocky Mountain sheep (the bighorn) and were quite tame. My jeep got butted several times and even my own butt was used as a practice cushion. I soon had to seek protection as the staff watched with laughter that their CO was being butted.

A frequent visitor to the tent camp kitchen was the pack rat. He would merely find his way around found what he liked to pack and scurried away. In my own tent sleeping area, the golden mantel (similar in size and appearance of the Saskatchewan chipmunk) greeted me at the tent every sunny morning, looking for bits of bread or nuts and was ready to be photographed.

These two summers were the highlight of my involvement with the Cadet Services of Canada. First of all, being born on the flat prairie plains, it was my first exposure to the mountains. Secondly this camp was for 200 selected Master Cadets from across Canada. Thirdly the training was in a pristine wilderness area with local Park Wardens participating as training staff. The highlight was to see the Company of Cadets having arrived safely on top of the Cascade Mountain in the town of Banff, hoist the Canada Maple Leaf flag, and safely walk down the mountain to the waiting vehicles to deliver them back to the main camp. I found it exciting but the cadets also found this was a very new and exciting experience for them. They could go home and practice rappelling of a farm barn!

Back to the Sask Ds. I had taken several courses to qualify for the rank of Major and received this promotion in 1964. I continued to take self-learning courses and had completed all the theoretical portion, except for the participation of a practical course for Field Officers at Kingston Military College. This would have qualified me for the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. However, the Sask Ds were reduced in strength from a regiment to a squadron in 1970. On May 3, 1970, the Sask Ds were honored when Governor-General Roland Mitchener officially presented the regiment with its guidon.