10: THE NETHERLANDS
11: BACK TO GERMANY
18: CYPRUS WIND DOWN
22: MEXICO Y ESPANA
It was the end of a multi-sensory 11 months. I use this analogy advisedly as it seemed that every day brought new experiences, adventures, acquaintances and thoughts to my life. I had visited 11 countries on three continents. From hiking across glaciers in the Norwegian mountains to seeing Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance on Amboselli Plane. I had crossed many venues that I had dreamed about since I was a child. I met a plethora of wonderful people. This was particularly true of my UN Peacekeeping duties. My confreres from both the Canadian Contingent ( CANCON) to UN Force in Cyprus ( UNFICYP) friends from the UK, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Finland and Sweden were a great influence. The service in Cyprus expanded my horizons in ways I could never have imagined. I came home a much richer man in so many aspects. All these years later I still am in contact with a few of my friends.
When I returned to Canadian Forces Base St Hubert on the Montreal south shore I was surprised to find that I had been transferred to Canadian Forces Base Borden, which is north of Toronto. It was with mixed feelings, as I had a lot of friends in Montréal particularly in the Montreal Irish Rugby club. But, Base Borden was the home of the then royal Canadian Dental Corps School. Our senior officers always referred to it as “The Home of THE CORPS”. It was in fact a wonderful posting for me as the ‘School’ had both treatment and teaching wings. I would be working with dental specialists, which would expand my professional skills and I would have the opportunity to become involved in training. At “The School’ we taught dental assistants and advanced dental assistant administrative courses. Our dental hygiene course was considered tops in Canada , we had excellent laboratory technician courses and there was an equipment repair wing. WE also had a number of courses for dentists. It was a wide open plain waiting my arrival.
My senior officers were something out of a movie, tough , fair, exemplary and intelligent. Their attitude was that we were officers first and dentists second. The truth was that both aspects of my service career grew while I was in Borden. A lot was expected from us and the 55 people of all ranks at “The School” worked as a team. I later found out that there a few back stabbers who did affect my career ; but, there were many who were a boost to my personal development.
As a dentist, I look back on the fact that there were several specialists from whom I learned a lot. I feel that this atmosphere of professionalism made me a far better dentist than I would have been, had I gone into private practice. It was fun and educational to look over someone’s shoulder to learn a new technique, or to perfect one I was learning. As well I was able to participate in dental trades training and the enthusiasm of the students was inspiring. The lab technicians had many years of skills, which they willingly shared with me. I had discovered this in Halifax and Montreal and the learning experience continued. The hygiene program at Borden was something I was able to participate in, in a limited way. I was a basic sciences, bacteriology and dental prevention instructor. I was to return to Borden in a dozen years with a post doctorate in Public Health. At that time I was the course director on two occasions. Dental assistant courses were also a good learning experience. They were usually younger candidates and their interest and enthusiasm was something that made me try even harder to deliver good lectures. At the school all courses are designed by committees, guidelines are set out and outlines were set out.
For example, if one was teaching bacteriology there were certain criteria that had to be taught. A lecturer was not allowed to teach on the fly or to wing it. There were determinants that had to be taught. These were called enabling objectives. A topic would be divided , each division would have features that were included and the course outline was filled in. One could stray from the “script” but not by far. This ensured that each course was consistent with the previous and subsequent courses. And as each course came up, preparing lecturers would provide the visual aids needed. Today this would be a PowerPoint type presentation. At that time it was overhead projections and slides. The standardization was magnificent. For example when computers came into the dental corps a group of five instructors , including me ,worked out the course content. From unpacking the computers, assembling , loading programs and all the steps needed to run the programs. Interestingly I was the only person at Dental Corps Headquarters in the late 80’s who really understood computers. I was able to work up a few useful programs using DOS. Several publications including the ECONOMIST and THE NATIONAL POST reported that such knowledge was not always appreciated. The person on the computer was deemed to be “playing”. This was something I had directed at me on several occasions.
All instructors in the Canadian Forces underwent instructional training. I was on a three week course on how to teach. I really doubt if many, or any University professors were ever given this basic but all inclusive type of course. One example was asking questions. If a topic had five points one would never say , “Mr. Smith what are the five criteria of this topic” . To do so would almost guarantee that the rest of the class would drift off. We were instructed to say something along the lines of, “There are five criteria, Mr. Smith what is the first one. Then Mr. Jones what is the second”. It sounds obvious ; but, I recall spending a lot of time on the endocrine system. I went beyond the course outline as it was both a topic I was enjoying ; but, I also felt it was important to hygienists , as health care providers , to know this part of our physiology. What I had meant to say, when I began the class was, “You will likely not use this information directly ; but, it will broaden you knowledge of human physiology”. I made a major goof when I said , “It is not important to you as hygienists ; but it will be of interest”. They all did poorly on the exam and one of the students said, “Sir you said it was not important” . I really had to laugh, and I did as I realized by saying ,”It is not important” . I basically was putting them all to sleep . Who says teaching is not a learning experience.
During my three years in Borden in addition to clinical duties I became an instructor for several courses. I taught on one basic dental assistants course. I did classroom instruction and at chair side I introduced new assistants to clinical duties. On one occasion I had five students at my chair observing. As I was the only English / French speaker in Borden, at the School, I was assigned four Quebec assistants and one Newfoundlander who spoke English. Every now and then I would address someone in the wrong language which added to the ambiance as we all got a kick out of it. I also taught on the hygiene program which was a 7 month course. They too were enthusiastic and it was a learning experience to teach as many a teacher will tell you. I gave a few lectures to the dental equipment repair technicians as I had a knowledge of electronics as a result of my ham radio experience. I was in fact the course director. Again I learned a lot by sitting in on various lectures. Chief Warrant Officer Morris was one of our finest technicians and I was able to garner a lot from his experience.
During the summer months I was tasked to work with dental students ,who were in training. As part of their military duties they spent two months at Borden between school years. It was the rebellious early 70’s so a bit of a challenge. My philosophy was based on what I had learned during my training. I had learned to push myself physically and to a degree mentally and I felt that this made me a better person. As such I wanted to share this with the students. Of 25 in our phase training group about 5 were not quite amenable to this. One was trying to buy his way out of the military and was a hindrance to group morale. As such I tried to isolate his complaining from the others as best I could. At one point I caught three of the fellow smoking a tad of pot on a “field” exercise. I am not a holier than thou type and have been known to “Bogart a joint” at times. But, in a military setting, especially in “The field” this was quite taboo . One was the fellow who wanted to buy his way out of his commitment. The following day I took the three aside separately. The first two admitted to smoking up and I warned them to use more common sense as some officers might not be quite as understanding. The third was one of the “trouble makers” . He denied smoking up and I praised him as the other two had admitted to so doing. “Well done, in the face of temptation you resisted or are you just a fucking liar” . I had him and I must admit I enjoyed the fact that I could now keep him in line as a result. Interestingly he was later kicked out of the service for being AWOL a few times.
Another fellow was equally disinterested in his military commitment. His wife was pregnant and he told me that if there were problems he might have to stay back home for a few days. I told him , “Use your judgment” . I felt that was a fair arrangement and it seems his judgment was to just stay away without telling anyone where he was for 2 weeks. When he came back finally he said there had been no problems and he just “Used my judgment”. The proverbial shit hit the fan and he was unsummarily discharged from the Forces . I fought against this as I felt I would open the door to a few others who wanted out. As it turns out the fellow I mentioned, got kicked out as did another in the group.
At the time of one summer exercise I was having a good social life. We had deployed to Canadian Forces Cam Meaford. We used dental vans and provided dentistry in the “field for some of the personnel at this base on Georgian Bay, North of Base Borden. Meaford had been an artillery range during WWII and rumour had it that there were some un-exploded shells about. So one was advised not to venture too far a field. The exercise had gone well. Our Sergeant was well trained in field deployment. He managed the set up of the tents and the vans. Interestingly one of the “students” had been a hygienist in the Forces and was in his late 30’s. He took me aside and said that the Sgt. Was showing me up. I have always felt that delegation is a major leadership and management asset. I got the students together and explained that I had wisely allowed a well trained Sergeant to set up the encampment as he knew more than I did. I told them this is called “Delegation “ . As I said this I gave the older ‘student’ a sardonic look. Sadly I later worked for some senior people who felt they ahd to have a hand in on all details. I feel it cuts efficiency to under 50% as one tends to not really out in as much of an effort if one is micro-managed. A good leadership point to anyone reading this who may find themselves ina leadership role.
There were two platoons of dental students and the last day of our deployment my Platoon Sgt kind of caught my ear. “Sir, I expect we will be last to clear the base when we get back” His point was that we had to bring back equipment to the supply section At Base Borden and return all vehicles to their section. His point was to get me to perhaps leave a bit earlier. He knew I had some social functions to attend etc > Sgt A. had a reputation for being a shit disturber.
So I thought for a second then came up with an idea. I figured we would pull a strategic evacuation of the site. But since the exercise was ending Friday I resisted the Sgt’s suggestion to leave early Thursday. That last night it was traditional that the platoons had a few ale to celebrate the end of an exercise. The other platoon was across a small woods from our encampment. So I had a couple of our lads stationed in the woods to intercept any wanderers from the other platoon. They were told to say wasn’t allowing them to drink etc… Near Midnight we started to take down our tents, in fact most supplies were loaded in the trucks. At midnight we started our “tactical withdrawl” We had signal men at intersection on the base, the trucks drove with only low lights…and off we went. We got back to Borden at about 1:30 AM . Some of the lads wanted to go back to the barracks and have a nice sleep in their beds. But, I said this was a tactical exercise and we were to sleep on the ground or in the trucks as a tactical exercise would dictate. The next morning we cleared the base at around 9 AM. By the time we were finished the other platoon arrived. Oh I forgot to mention, the other platoon was commanded by a newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel and I was a Captain, two ranks below him. So I was subject to a blast, I was put on extra duty as a punishment ..so my weekend in Toronto fell apart J The SGT was also placed on extra duty for the subsequent three weekends as well. But the way they worked it, the official roster had him on duty but they had an under the counter roster so he never really stood extra duty. My fate was not as kind I later heard that the Commandant of the Dental Corps School got a great kick out of my follies but he had to support his senior officer . I think that my little adventure hurt my career as the Lt Col was also my direct boss. But, alter several of the students told me that this was the best part of all their summer training.
The social life at Base Borden was excellent. The single officers all lived in quadraplex apartments on “12th Street” . The group included another dentist, a dental administration officer, a lawyer and several nurses. As well there were a group of officers from the various branches on the base. Some looked on our social scene as trite and trivial sadly. But I always believe that if you work hard you do so better if you play hard. One fellow was an excellent example of fitness training. He was a grad from Royal Military College and was always in top shape. This was the early 70’s and the fitness bug had not quite caught on as it has today. “Herc” as he was called, short for Hercules, was a recreation officer in charge of the base gymnasiums. He lead by example..
Street parties on long summer weekends were de rigueur as were evening repasts as it were J . It is a sad commentary that of the single officers on this street ,none ever got recognition for their work , nor went on to promotion beyond the minimal rank for each trade or profession. Sadly one would be judged by one’s social proclivities before one’s actual duty performance. Yet I know that the people I befriended were excellent at what they did. And it is interesting that we all went on to happy marriages while some who put us down did not.
One friend was Paul, he and I had several good trips together, and I will elaborate on these. I had the honour of being asked to be his best man when he and Marion were wed. They both live happily in BC and have raised two fine daughters. We still communicate via the net and the occasional phone call. I think as people come and go in one’s life it is important to keep contact even though we are separated by distance and years. Sadly some of my acquaintances are not of the same mind . This is a shame as I always felt I gave my friendship to whom I felt were special people.
Borden was an hour north of Toronto and several of us took many a trip to the “big” city to take in the night life. As well we were regulars at a few clubs in Barrie the biggest nearby town. Nothing really exciting, more along the lines of single guys on the prowl. Some may look on this as a trivial pursuit ( Opps that’s a game ). And any nursing courses who were passing through Base Borden added to the social scene. For a lad coming from Montreal and 8 months in Cyprus it was a somewhat quiet experience to be sure; but ,one should always be adaptable to different social circumstances. Again without sounding trivial I feel that if after hours one can have a good social life it allows one to perform far better in a work surrounding. As well Borden had a great rivalry between the various ranks in sports. I was particularly keen on ice hockey. The Officers were in a league with Privates, Corporals and Sergeants. We played every Tuesday and Thursday and the single lads would adjourn to the Officers’ Mess for a few cool brew. In Canada the home of the Officers was named from the Latin which means “meeting place”. Rank was never a factor in sports but one could sense that the officers were the target of a bit more enthusiasm on the hockey rink. Again I feel sports are a great outlet. I was a goalie and I feel our team was not quite as good as the others so it was a challenge to play at top form. As ironic as it sounds I was never coached in hockey as I usually played pick up . So at nearly 30 I was taught a few good tips by a Corporal who was also a goalie. And the results were satisfying. Sadly in my last year we lost in overtime to the Sergeants ; but, the results were satisfying.
All in all Borden was a good combination of fine leadership from my senior officers. It was a learning experience as a dentist, as I was able to associate with various trades people who were at the top of their game as many were instructors. I also benefited in my professional skills as there were several specialists at the Royal Canadian Dental Corps School. It was almost like a residency where one could call on experts in many areas.
As well I was able to take a number of courses. I could sit in on dental officer courses. I was not able to attend all lectures as I had clinic duties to attend to; but, I would peruse the course schedules and get permission to take in lectures of choice. I have mentioned the course on lecturing that has held me in fine stead over the years. As well I also was able to take in some unusual courses. One was a video editing course. This was early in video development and it was a step forward in that area. I also was able to enroll in a three day range safety officer course. I was going to be working with dental students and this was a good “field” course. I am not all that keen on guns but it was interesting. We shot 9 mm pistol, a 9 mm machine gun and the NATO FN-1 and FN-2 rifle. I also used an anti-tank bazooka type shoulder held weapon. I was able to learn about plastique explosives. And I tossed a couple of grenades and an anti-tank weapon. One exercise was to take a grenade and place platique explosive around it, the scenario was , the grenade had not exploded and we were to safely dispose of it. We had a wick we lit and timed a foot of the fuse to give us an idea of how much time we had while seeking shelter from the explosion after lighting the actual explosive wick . We placed a bit of the platique close to the grenade and a small explosive cap was immersed in the plastique, which exploded when the flame from the wick reached it.
We did the preliminaries, so many seconds per foot, more like a minute. We cut a wick about a meter long, set the plastique up, buried the detonator fuse, lit the wick and proceeded to walk back to the range shelter. The instructor Sergeant told me , jokingly, “we didn’t have to hurry sir, take in the lovely day“. I replied , “I’ll take that in later” . It was quite a percussion as it was a combination of the plastique and the grenade. It gave me an understanding and appreciation for the fear a soldier at the front must feel. And it again reminded me how sad we have to have conflict in this world. Sadly we have to defend ourselves in many instances, as history has shown.
Base Borden is a training base and there were courses in many of the base sections From engineering to vehicle maintenance. The nearby medical hospital also had courses and the aforementioned nurses courses were always welcome. Friday nights were happy hour at the Officers’ mess and I was able to both socialize and learn more about the training done at various sections. One section was the Service Corps. They were a multi-dimensional operation. They kept the vehicles on the road and they also provided the cooks. As someone once said, “An army marches on their stomachs”. The Canadian Army had excellent cooks and from basic training in the field to foreign deployment in Cyprus our fare was always excellent. Every now and then the Service Corps would hold a graduation evening on a happy hour evening. A great variety and excellently presented and prepared food made the fare. As well they provided bar tenders for the Officers’ mess which made for some interesting evenings.
I spent three wonderful years in Base Borden learning from some excellent senior officers and many enlisted people. It was a pivotal point in my life. In the coming Chapters I will outline some of my off base adventures both “short haired “and “hippie “.