Col. Geoff Abthorpe thanks Sask. for supporting soldiers, firefighters

One of the people who led firefighting efforts in Saskatchewan this summer has a message for the province — "thanks".

The Commander of 38 Canadian Brigade Group reflects on wildfires in Saskatchewan

Sixty reservists from 38 Canadian Brigade Group, predominantly from Saskatchewan, arrive at the Prince Albert armoury to join the Immediate Response Unit (West) already fighting wild fires in northern Saskatchwan. (Photo by: Melanie Ferguson, Canadian Army Public Affairs)

One of the people who led firefighting efforts in Saskatchewan this summer has a message for the province — "thanks".

Col. Geoff Abthorpe is commander of 38 Canadian Brigade Group. 

His troops were among 1,000 Canadian military personnel sent to the fire lines and to work in support roles in July. It was the first time since 2003 Canadian troops had been brought in to battle such an inferno.

Captain Ward Lentz, a Reserve Force officer from 38 Canadian Brigade Group, prepares his platoon for fire suppression operations near La Ronge, Saskatchewan. (Photo by Melanie Ferguson, Canadian Army Public Affairs)

Here is Col. Geoff Abthorpe's letter:

I wish to thank the people of Saskatchewan for their support in allowing my soldiers from 38 Canadian Brigade Group the time away from their families and work in support of the forest firefighting north of Prince Albert.

38 Canadian Brigade Group, the army reserves of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwest Ontario have a proud history of serving in domestic operations, specifically during the floods in Manitoba. Our 'citizen' soldiers, train together throughout the year, leaning how to work as a team in austere conditions. We come together, prepared because of this training — training that demands sacrifice from their families and employers.

On July 4, the province of Saskatchewan made the request for help to the Canadian Armed Forces. It was not long after, that I started receiving requests for the reserve units of Saskatchewan to help supply the much needed manpower. Within hours my soldiers — from Prince Albert, Yorkton, Moose Jaw, Regina, and Saskatoon — responded to this call for assistance.

I also wish to share a quick story about one of our reservists. At only 19 years old, he was deployed to the fires to be part of this mission. What was very special is that he and his family lived through the raging Kelowna fires in 2003 where their friends and families lost homes. He was only seven then and remembered the soldiers fighting the fires. Pte. Keith Griffith vowed to be a reservist so that someday he could pay it back. His father was with him as he got on the bus. That was one proud but nervous father. That was one proud reservist.

Your citizen soldiers were on the ground within days. For the next two weeks, day and night, they worked hand-in-hand with the provincial fire authorities and battled the relentless firestorm.

Your continuing support in allowing them to train is valued and needed. The growth and development of the army reserves of Saskatchewan, whether employed, from universities or even recently through the high school programs in Regina, needs this support so that when called upon, our 'citizen soldiers' will be there for you.

Colonel Geoff Abthorpe, MSM, CD
Commander of 38 Canadian Brigade Group


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