12 April 2006

 

Class of 76:

 

I have an unfinished piece of business that I have been contemplating for some time but never acted upon.

 

The case for action was fortified when I heard our present CDS address the NDHQ crowd in late 2005 in an annual report card format that I found to be very inspiring.  As you no doubt know General Rick Hillier is a very engaging speaker with a great deal of charisma.

 

I was quite impressed with the emphasis that Gen. Hillier placed on the unique contributions each individual makes to the larger group.  He started off his speech highlighting events of the Year of the Veteran – honouring members of the CF who had paid a high price and who were now being honoured so that the memory of their contribution would not die with them.  A large section of the General’s speech was devoted to Smokey Smith and the significance of honouring him on the occasion of his death, the last living recipient of the Victoria Cross during the Year of the Veteran.

We have our own veteran in the Class of 1976 that I do not believe has been adequately recognized or honoured.  I am speaking of Anthony Bowie who drowned in the recruit obstacle course in 1972 at Kingston.  I believe one of the stones in front of the Memorial Arch has been purchased by the class and his name engraved on it.  While that is a noble gesture I believe it does not adequately reflect the significance of the contribution that the life and death of Anthony Bowie made to the college way of life and more specifically the running of the recruit obstacle course.

 

A Board of Inquiry was convened upon Anthony’s death and, as a direct result of that board, numerous and sweeping changes were made to the way in which the recruit obstacle course is designed and run today.  The design of the water obstacle in which Anthony perished favoured a rugged individualism approach at best and a clawing, crawling over the backs of others in a dog-eat-dog environment at its worst.  This is in stark contrast to the design philosophy of today’s obstacle course which has undergone a purposeful and dramatic shift away from the rugged individualism approach to one that promotes co-operation, fosters team spirit and looks out for one another to ensure everybody’s safety and success.

 

I know this is late for making plans for our 30 anniversary class reunion but  I would propose that, falling on the heels of the Year of the Veteran, we embark on a Centennial Class project of erecting a monument on the college grounds in memory of Anthony Bowie that celebrates the importance of team work in the recruit obstacle course.

 

It is much too ambitious to think that we could get everything in place to design, commission, construct and present the actual monument but perhaps we could use the occasion of this year’s recruit obstacle course to announce our intent and show a concept sketch of the monument. 

 

I believe that a noble cause such as this might rally the Centennial Class of 76 into putting their shoulders behind this daunting but doable project.  We are not just any class after all, we are the Centennial Class, and as such it would be most appropriate for us to carry the torch high and do both ourselves and Anthony proud.

 

I believe Anthony would approve – in fact I know he would.  I should know, I carried him halfway across the square on my back to start the recruit obstacle race on Friday, 29 September 1972.  The night before the race we had mutually developed our strategy on how we were going to maximize our potential for gaining points for the squadron.  Anthony was totally pumped for this coming of age event that would mark the transition from a lowly rookie into 1st year cadet. In his down home East Coast bravado he was making loud reckless claims that he was going to win the race; although we all knew that wasn’t very likely.

 

The strategy Anthony and I had come up with was an ill-fated one that played to the rugged individualist world view; one which exploited the strengths of one without helping shoulder the weaknesses of the other.  In hindsight we would have been much better off sticking together after the piggyback sprint across the square rather than me forging on ahead in a quest to earn more points for the squadron.  As a result of that flawed strategy, coupled with other tragic links that form the inevitable chain of events leading up to any accident, Anthony perished.

 

I am proposing that as tragic as Anthony’s death was, it would be equally tragic if we didn’t commemorate, in an appropriate and significant way, the unique contribution that Anthony made to the recruit obstacle course.

 

For the thoughtful consideration of the Class of 76.

 

 

 

Your Class of 76 Bud

10961

Brian A. Kroeker