The City of Prince George will be bestowing its highest award to a Canadian Forces primary reserve infantry regiment that has had a lengthy history in the city.
The city plans to grant the Freedom of the City award to the Rocky Mountain Rangers, a Canadian Forces unit that trains in both Prince George and Kamloops.
The Rocky Mountain Rangers' “A” Company was based in Prince George prior to 1970. The regiment was relocated to Kamloops, but “B” Company was returned to Prince George in 2011.
The city plans to host a formal ceremony on Saturday, April 21. The ceremony will involve a march to city hall in the morning, which is a tradition that dates back to a period when military units were not allowed entry into the city without the permission of the RCMP. Members of the local RCMP will be on hand to formally grant passage, while the commanding officer of the regiment will perform a formal knocking on the door of city hall. Mayor Lyn Hall will conduct an official inspection of the troops.
"It's a tremendous honour,” said Capt. Michael Oviatt of the Rocky Mountain Rangers.
“It's something that only happens once in a regiment's history. Ever."
Oviatt said the re-establishment of “B” Company occurred after a 41-year absence, as a result of efforts by both reservists and civilians.
"It was a citizen-lead initiative,” he said.
“There was a local lobby group here in Prince George that included people personally known to army leaders who pointed out that Prince George is a population centre, it's had a reserve unit in the past and it could definitely support one."
Oviatt said the regiment's “B” company currently maintains close to 60 reserve citizen-soldiers, who also work in a variety of other careers, from trades to corrections. Several members of the Rocky Mountain Rangers have also served overseas in recent years, including in Afghanistan and as part of NATO operations in Latvia. Close to a dozen members took part in Operation LENTUS, the Canadian Forces' response to the wildfires in B.C.'s interior in 2017.
For Oviatt, who took part in the wildfire assistance last summer, the operation was a point of pride.
"When you get the chance to work on a named operation, really, it's kind of the culmination of why a reservist is a reservist. It's the most fulfilling portion of the job," he said.
"Granting of this distinction recognizes the Rocky Mountain Rangers’ history, presence in our community, and contributions both locally and nationally. On behalf of Council, I would like to congratulate and thank the Rangers for their contributions to Prince George and to Canada," Hall said in a media statement.
The parade will begin at 10:25 a.m. at the Kopar Building at 150 Brunswick Street. It will then proceed down Second Avenue to George Street, then down George Street. The parade will finish at the cenotaph at City Hall with a ceremony. Following the ceremonies, a formal regimental ball will be held at the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre.