CO's Address - November 2018

Alberta’s Regiment has had an intense pace this past year.  We have had our soldiers performing many duties ranging from ceremonials tasks through Corps, Division, Brigade and regiment training.  These tasks have seen soldiers of the regiment participating internationally as in Vimy 100th and Iwuy 100th, nationally in Ottawa and the Armoured School, provincially in, Suffield and Wainwright and locally within our three cities of Medicine Hat, Edmonton and Lethbridge. Attending Dutch ceremonies, community relations events and all levels of training.  Our NCO cadre has carried the “Lion’s Share” of the leadership to manage and maintain this extreme battle rhythm.  Their outstanding dedication and support to the regiment and more importantly, to the soldier of this regiment is second to none!   

This past year has also seen an unprecedented growth through new soldiers joining the regiment with the increased recruiting activities over the past few years and as such our regiment continues to build its capacity in all three locations.  And with this growth so does our ability to deliver on our missions, both domestically and internationally, grow.  The collaboration between our Regiment and The King’s Own Calgary Regiment, and the support provided from our Regular Force armoured unit, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (RC), in training opportunities has made the armoured integration within Alberta exceptional.

As we look now to the culminating events of this training year, we will be moving from a building model to a deploying model.  This means our focus and main effort will change from growth to developing armoured skills.  We will see resources transition from individual skill training to collective training.   Note, however, we will continue to recruit and train our new soldiers to become qualified armoured soldiers and we will continue to deliver our community relations responsibilities – this will never change.    

As 3rd Canadian Division rolls along the road to high readiness, the Light Horse must prepare our soldiers to be part of this and fully support the Division.  We are well into our training on the new TAPV platform, which will further build on each soldier’s skill base as well trained armoured crewmen.  We need each soldier of The South Alberta Light Horse to focus on and commit to achieving and maintaining their individual soldier skills through IBTS and their crew/troop skills, by attending the maximum amount of training and field training exercises.  Each one of us - driver, gunner, observer, crew commander - joined to serve our nation and each and every one of us have a responsibility to ourselves and our crew to meet our personal commitments to maintain our skills each and every year in order to be an armoured crewman of “Alberta’s Regiment”!  

Nov 3rd, 2018

LCol Shawn Thirlwell - Semper Alacer!  

Commanding Officer

Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Shawn Thirlwell, CD Commanding Officer (CO)

LCol Thirlwell grew up in Sherwood Park, AB where he started his military career in the Army Cadet Program in 1976. In 1978 while waiting to carry on his secondary schooling he joined the Canadian Armed Forces Militia as a trooper as one of the first of seven recruits to form the detached “B” Squadron of The South Alberta Light Horse in Edmonton.   In 1980 he was enrolled on the first Combat Leader’s Course offered to reserve personnel and later posted to the Area Training Detachment.  Then late in 1980 he transferred to the Supplementary Reserve List to focus on his studies in Engineering at the University of Alberta.

After a 15 year sabbatical from the military, LCol Thirlwell applied in 1995 and was accepted into the Direct Entry Officer program, where he was enrolled as a 2nd Lieutenant in the same B squadron which had now been re-roled into a tank squadron.  After his Armoured “tank” Troop Leader Training, he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned command of a “Sabre” troop.

Through the late 1990s LCol Thirlwell was introduced early to the world of protocol as he was appointed as an Aide de Camp to the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. The learning curve was extremely steep for a 2nd Lieutenant.

In 1997, he went over to England as part of an Officer Exchange Program with the South Hampton Officer Training Corps to observe their general military training program as well as to observer their Cambrian Patrol training efforts. Later that year in October he was tasked to lead a dismounted Reconnaissance patrol in the high level international Cambrian Patrol Competition held each year in the United Kingdom.  Although LCol Thirlwell’s team was a composite (armoured, infantry and artillery personnel) group of young reserve soldiers with only a couple of years experience, they competed at an equal level with elite regular units from around the world.  His team not only completed the competition but they achieved a Bronze Level and each member received the Army Commander's Commendation.

In 1999 he was promoted to Captain and over the next 5 year he moved through the various squadron headquarter rolls such as the Battle Captain and Squadron 2ic and then in 2005 he assumed command of “B” Sqn and the field sqn (C Sqn).  After attending the Canadian Land Forces Command Staff College in Kingston he was promoted major in January 2010.   In Sept 2014, LCol Thirlwell was finally taken out of the field and the squadron and moved into regimental headquarters as Regimental Second in Command.  On the 9 September 2017, he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and assumed command of “Alberta’s Regiment”.

LCol Thirlwell spent 33 years with the Canada Post Corporation as his civilian career, starting as letter carrier in 1983 and retiring as the Manager of Production Control and Reporting where he was responsible for the operational planning and costs management for the Edmonton Mail Processing Plant.  He is married to Maureen and is the father of two children, Lucy and Peter.  He and Maureen currently reside on a small acreage North of Camrose where if he is not out with the regiment you’ll find him elbow deep in some kind of a historical vehicle.

The Regimental Sergeant-Major

Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) G.D. Olsen, CD Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)
CWO Gerry Olsen joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1981 as a Reservist private in C Coy Canadian Scottish Regiment in Comox BC. After 2 years of enjoying his time with this fine unit, he transferred to the Regular Army, as a crewman. Upon completion of Basic Training in Cornwallis, he went on to CFB Petawawa and joined the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s) where he completed QL3 and AVGP gunner and driver courses in his first year. The following year saw him competing in the Rams Head competition, and completing the Basic Para Course and the Leopard Gunner course.

In 1985, immediately after RV85, he was posted to the Royal Canadian Dragoons in 4CMBG Lahr W Germany. After spending only one year on tanks, he saw the light and requested a transfer to Recce Sqn RCD. He spent the next 4 years as a competitor on The Boeselager Competition and several other NATO recce competitions, for which he received the Commander Canadian Forces Europe Commendation. Leaving Lahr as a newly qualified Tactical Helicopter Observer, he was posted to CFB Edmonton and joined 408 Sqn, where he was promoted to Sgt.

With the loss of the Kiowa helicopter, Sgt Olsen was posted back to his home unit, as a member of Recce Sqn RCD. He stayed with the RCD for tours of Bosnia and Kosovo, and qualified as an Advanced Driver/Maintenance Instructor and Advanced Armoured Recce specialist. Then WO Olsen attended the yearlong French course followed by a posting to LFCA HQ in Toronto.

A posting to Wainwright to LFWA TC in 2006 saw WO Olsen assuming the role of the Operations and Training WO for the school, where he remained for 4 years. Upon promotion to MWO he was posted to CMTC as Company Sgt Major of COEFOR, where he spent a year travelling North America and Europe with his soldiers, providing training with his OPFOR team.

After a year as an OCT, he was posted back to the RCD in Petawawa as Sgt Maj of a Brigade Recce Sqn in 2012. One year later he was posted back to Wainwright to rejoin his family.

In 2014 MWO Olsen retired from the Regular Army and joined the Primary Reserve as an MWO in The South Alberta Light Horse. He remained the TQMS for the SALH for 4 years, although he did squeeze in a one year exchange position in Australia, which he claims was both the most exciting and the fasted year of his career.

In 2018 he was promoted to CWO, and took over as RSM SALH in Oct 2018.

CWO Olsen is divorced, but has 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren who all reside in Alberta. He enjoys hunting and fishing, but most of all he values the time he spends with his grandchildren.