BY GEORGE LEE
APEGGA's engineers hear regularly of the major role their
professions play in improving standards of living in Canada
and abroad. Now about 7,500 professional cousins from coast
to coast are giving them the chance to learn more about a
similar and equally important role, this one played by the
Canadian Military Engineers.
CME members, who celebrate their centennial with events across
the country this year, tell an interesting story about the
development of Canada, says Lt.-Col. (Ret.) Ralph Gienow.
He's chairing the northern Alberta steering committee for
the centennial, dubbed CME 2003.
Military engineering founded the profession, he points out.
That bred the term civilian engineering, and the grammatical
link carries on in the discipline now known as civil engineering.
The first to leave their mark on Canada were Great Britain's
military engineers, with large developmental work such as
the Rideau Canal. But there was much more to come. The Alaska
Highway began its life as a military engineering project,
and so did airports in the major cities across Canada.
Northern communities owe much to military engineers. "Many
of the communities in Northern Canada wouldn't survive if
it hadn't been for the Canadian Military Engineers,"
says Mr. Gienow. "The only communications many of them
have are their airfields, which were almost entirely built
by military engineers, right across the north."
A history of infrastructure work isn't all that CME has to
celebrate. Capt. Barb Honig, chair of the CME 2003 steering
committee for Southern Alberta, points to geomatics as a current
area of research and development. "Our people are very
much integrated into the worldwide attempt to 3-D map the
world. We're actually quite progressive in that area."
And Canadian Forces Base Suffield is a leader in mine detection
research, developing a safer system using new technology,
says Capt. Honig.
In conjunction with Zenon Environmental Systems Inc., Canada's
military engineers developed the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification
Unit, which removes contaminants to produce the highest quality
water possible short of distillation. The system has been
used in conflict areas throughout the world, but also at home
- in Manitoba during the Red River flood of 1997, for example.
The cornerstone of CME 2003 is a legacy program called Bridges
for Canada, a contribution to the Trans Canada Trail. Since
1999 military engineers in every province and territory have
been building these bridges in cooperation with local communities.
The engineers have added at least 40 bridges to the trail
so far, in a program set to wrap up next year.
Community work is common among CME members, says Capt. Honig.
Many units, particularly reserve units in small towns, involve
themselves in local projects. Calgary members recently built
a footbridge in Fish Creek Provincial Park.
Capt. Honig - who plans to seek APEGGA registration as a P.Eng.
- says the military develops leadership skills. "This
is something that maybe engineers don't always get when they
work in a strictly technical environment," she says.
Mr. Gienow, who was a P.Eng. for part of his career, says
the military was good to him. He retired from service in 1983,
after a career that included commanding a combat engineering
regiment in Germany and peacekeeping tours in the Middle East
after the 1973 war.
"I think your members will be pleasantly surprised at
the technology that military engineers use. A lot of civilian
engineers think we're just a bunch of army guys driving around
in amoured vehicles. But we use the same technology that civilian
engineers use. We do the same things except we do them under
"The difference is you're wearing a uniform and you do
a lot more travelling. You see interesting places, although
there is also danger, depending what military you're in. Pay
wise, it's equivalent to any other kind of engineering. It's
Capt. Honig urges members to take in centennial events in
their area. "They're generally a good time because
military engineers are a lot of fun," she quips.
April to October, at Museum of Regiments, City Hall, Calgary
Golf Tournament and more
Freedom of City Parade
With King's Own Calgary Regiment
Stampede Parade Float
Bridge Building Competition
Edmonton International Airport, City Hall
In place now
Military Engineering Showcases
At one each of
Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Eskimos and Edmonton Trappers home
100th Birthday Celebration
Series of events welcoming CME members and families from across
May 28-June 1
Raft race, parade and other partcipation
July 17 to 26
Freedom of City Parade
Honouring 1 Combat Engineer Regiment
Display, parade, golf tournament, family day
Time Capsule Ceremony
Capt. Barb Honig
(403) 410-2320, ext. 3825