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They Salute the Commission

Heroes Remember

They Salute the Commission

You’re gonna get the job then that what you’ve been trained to do You’re gonna be a platoon commander in my case in the infantry. I was given a sergeant as an assistant who was a sergeant from the PPCLI and myself, and we were literally given a block syllabus. A syllabus, a timetable to put about sixty people through basic training. You had twelve weeks to do that and during those twelve weeks of course, some of them fell off by the side, some of them went AWOL, some got sick, some got hurt in training. And by the end of the training, you got about 40, 42 people left out of the sixty some odd. Then as a group we selected, the sergeant and myself, rather not as, but amongst the group we selected three section commanders. It was up to us to have judged their leadership because we appointed them on the spot, with the sanction of the commanding officer, three corporals that were gonna become section commander. Because you know, the military is a very structured organization and, and necessarily so. So the people that run a section of eight to ten men are not like a commissioned officer that gets a platoon of about forty. But at the same time that young man you depended on to run that little group because in the field you don’t see more than three or four guys beside you. You take the lead in the dark or in dyer situations. You wear a rank on your shoulders but it doesn’t automatically get you respected. I mean getting yourself respected is something that you have to work at by showing that you can be compassionate to your troops but you can be concerned with their wherewithalls, and their ills their problems and so on. And NCO’s over the years, the non-commissioned officers realize who’s on their side and who isn’t. If you’re wise at all in training and as a young officer too, that you realize the experience of these individuals that they, in fact, continue your training because in the school of infantry and in the school as well you are going through your own basic training they were the instructors. A lot in our case, of course, were also World War Two people because that was five, six years after the war. So we were the new generation. But most of our people that were, say, sergeants at the beginning of Korea and that sort of thing or in the case of officers or perhaps a captain that had done four or five years as a lieutenant. These guys almost invariably were World War Two. So, you know, and they carried a row of ribbons and medals and we tended to listen to them. So, and if you’re judicious enough to take their suggestions, you don’t have to because you’re the guy that’s the boss, but you would probably find, on analysis, that they’re usually right when they make a suggestion to you and so you learn to . . . Yeah, it’s like having a whole bunch of executive officers working with you but having a little board was only two or three people. Sound them out, always do that and if you have any doubts whatsoever about doing an attack from the right flank or the left flank you just look at the eyes in the sergeant, you know, and if he says . . . if you see him crinking probably he’s thought of something you may not have thought of, so you ask him then and make up your mind. To be able to be just as physical and as tough as they are is also important. They can’t see you as a wet noodle. If you’re asking them to be tough and to leap out of an air plane with you know, with sixty pounds of kit on your back, they expect to see you do it, too.

Mr. Belzile discusses developing a command structure in a unit and mutual respect between officers and NCO’s.

Charles Belzile

Lt.-Gen. Charles Belzile was born in Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, on March 12, 1933. As a youth, he was exposed to the armed forces as troop trains passed by his home during the Second World War. He joined the reserves, then the regular force with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in 1951. In 35 years of service, Lt.-Gen. Belzile has served in Korea, Germany, Cyprus and Canada. His appointments have included regimental duties with the Queen’s Own Rifles, Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion Royal 22e Régiment, Commander 4th Canadian Mechanized Group and Canadian Forces Europe in Germany. Since retiring from the Canadian Armed Forces, he has held numerous posts as a consultant and honorary chair. Mr. Belzile Chaired the VAC 60th Anniversary Committee on VE-Day commemorations and was Grand President of the Royal Canadian Legion. International honours include Commander of the Legion of Honour of France and recipient of the Vimy Award.

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Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Charles Belzile
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
Lieutenant General

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