1 CER honours Dustin Wasden

Lt Marty Douglas 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, Western Sentinel, 9 June 2011

On Feb. 28, 19 soldiers from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment (1 CER) and Capt Daryl Bazin, Detachment Commander of 4 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4 CRPG) Alberta/Saskatchewan, set out on a 12-day journey. Their trek was to Northern Saskatchewan where they honoured a fallen member of 1 CER.

In Northwest Saskatchewan lies Wasden Lake which was named after Cpl Dustin Wasden’s great uncle, Pte Harold Wasden of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. He was killed Dec. 11, 1944 while conducting operations in Holland. Sixty-four years later, Cpl Dustin Wasden was killed on Aug. 20, 2008 in Afghanistan.

Following this incident, an island on Wasden Lake was named Dustin Wasden Island by the Government of Saskatchewan under the Geo- Memorial Program.

At Stony Rapids, the group met up with WO Michael Gilliard and WO John McNicol from 4 CRPG Alta/Sask Detachment and three Rangers from the Fond du Lac Ranger Patrol. After the all the snowmobiles and toboggans were prepared for the journey, the group set off on the first leg to Fond du Lac, Sask.

The 1 CER soldiers, who had never been in the Arctic, quickly realized that the exercise would be a challenging journey.

The fierce cold and relentless pounding from riding over the frozen ice drifts of Lake Athabasca forced the group to stop often to re-adjust loads, check for frostbite and thaw frozen visors. The Canadian Rangers were ever patient as they showed the soldiers better ways to secure the toboggans and passed on knowledge to improve the soldiers’ riding skills.

Eventually, with a lot of patience and assistance from the Rangers, the expedition reached Wasden Lake. It was a sombre moment as the group cleared the snow away to take a photo with the plaque placed on the shore by the Wasden family commemorating their family’s losses. After spending the night in arctic tents on the shores of Wasden Lake, the soldiers formed a flagpole and flew an Engineer flag on Dustin Wasden Island.

A 1 CER-themed geocache was buried at the base of the flag pole and the group departed for the return trip. Upon the arrival at Fond du Lac the group said goodbye to the Rangers. They taught the soldiers an incredible wealth of knowledge and skills that was appreciated by all. The experiences gained and the opportunity to honour a fallen 1 CER comrade made for an outstanding expedition.

Note - Wasden Lake is located north of the east end of Lake Athabasca. Lake Athabasca straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border and is near the southern border of the Northwest Territories. It can be found at N 59 58' 1'' W 109 34' 6''

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