Ed Koski has lots of memories of being part of the Rocky Mountain Rangers as a youth, but none more so than one very snowy day in the winter of 1972.
That winter in Revelstoke was the snowiest ever recorded in Canada. Almost eight metres of snow fell in town and much, much more in the surrounding mountains.
Koski, 17 at the time, was sitting in school one day when he was called to the principal’s office. He arrived to see his commanding officer there in full uniform.
It turns out, the artillery unit performing avalanche control in Glacier National Park brought down a big slide and lots of people were stuck. The militia was called in to help out and Koski was needed.
He was ordered to go to the armory, put chains on the army truck and head up to the Pass to help out the two trucks.
“All day long I was pulling tow trucks. I was pulling tow trucks that were pulling ambulances,” he said. “I was pulling everything all day long. Just had a blast. Would a 17-year-old kid who wasn’t in the army be able to do something like that?”
Koski spent four years in the Rocky Mountain Rangers cadets program and then four more years in the reserves.
“It forms your whole psyche as a kid,” he said. “I’d never seen any kids that came through the cadets that were hoodlums or idiots. They all had respect for people, they learned respect and they taught respect.”
When word of this year’s Homecoming came to Koski, he decided there should be a Rocky Mountain Rangers reunion. He called up his friend Mark McKay and they got the ball rolling, spreading the news by word of mouth.
About 100 former cadets and reservists have said they will come, and they’re expecting many more to show up.
The reunion takes place on Saturday, August 16, at the legion hall. It starts with a pancake breakfast and registration at 8 a.m. From 10–11 a.m. the cadets will perform a demonstration and showcase some of the regimental history they hold. At 11 a.m. there will be a moment of silence at the cenotaph. That will be followed by a meet-and-greet and light lunch and it all culminates with the meat draw at 3 p.m.
They’re expecting most people to come out for the meet-and-greet portion, where old friends will reunite and stories will be shared.
“Where does it begin, where does it end? It’s still part of us,” said McKay. “You build friendships and camaraderie and even though it’s not a battle situation, you’re still functioning in the same way as team members, so you build that thing that is still hanging around.”
McKay started as a cadet when he was 15, then moved up to the reserves, before becoming the commanding officer of the cadet corps for seven years. “Technically I’m still a member of the force,” he said.
They both spoke of a time they went to Spokane, Washington, to take part in war games against the American national guard. About 70 Canadians took on 500 Americans.
“We went down there and the letter than came from their regional commander to the force commended us,” said McKay. “We wiped them decisively three times. That was 70-odd people against 500.”
A very brief history of the Rocky Mountain Rangers
The history of the Rocky Mountain Rangers dates to 1885, depending on which version you follow. That year the name was used by a B.C. militia unit that was formed to fight for the government side during the Northwest Rebellion led by Louis Riel. The militia was disbanded after the rebellion was quashed.
In 1898, the Canadian government formed six militia companies in the B.C. Interior in Revelstoke, Vernon, Rossland, Nelson, Kamloops and Kaslo. The companies operated independently until 1908 when they were amalgamated into the 102nd Regiment Rocky Mountain Rangers. Revelstoke was designated E Company. Companies were formed in other Interior companies over the next five years.
The regiment was placed on active duty at the start of the First World War for local protection duties. Members travelled to Valcartier, Quebec, for training and deployment to Europe, where they fought on the battlefields there throughout the war. A battalion consisting entirely of Rangers was formed and sent overseas in 1916, but it was disbanded upon arrival in the United Kingdom.
In the Second World the regiment was once again activated for homeland defense. The 1st Battallion of the Rangers was activated on Jan. 1, 1941, and served at home before being sent to help liberate Kiska, Alaska, from the Japanese. The Japanese left the island days before the assault, but members of the regiment remained there until January 1944. They were then sent to England for the remainder of the war.
The regiment was returned to reserve duty in 1946, with headquarters in Kamloops and companies in Kamloops, Prince George, Salmon Arm, Armstrong and Revelstoke. In 1952 the Revelstoke company was relocated to Whitehorse, but in 1959 the Salmon Arm company moved to Revelstoke, bring the Rangers back to the community until 1978, when the company returned to Salmon Arm. The Rocky Mountain Rangers cadet corps has remained active in Revelstoke in the intervening years.
Today, the Rangers have only two active reserve companies — in Kamloops and Prince George.