Kamloops - Born American; Raised Canadian
Story and photos by Sgt. David P Maska
Canadian Forces Station Kamloops is nestled in the Thompson River Valley where British Columbia’s most ruggedly beautiful scenery is found. The station is located on top of Mount Lolo, 5,750 feet above sea level, where three golf-ball radar towers stand like guardians over the majestic city of Kamloops.
CFS Kamloops is one link in the NORAD radar chain protecting North America’s airspace. Military activity at the site centres on radars used to detect all air activity in the region. Information recorded is automatically transmitted to the 25th NORAD Region Headquarters at McChord AFB, Washington.
Construction of the radar station began in 1956, with the unit being designed as an early warning radar site to augment the Pinetree radar system. The unit buildings were built in late 1957.
The following year saw the installation of the radar and communications systems with a limited degree of operations achieved by the end of 1958. The station, designed and manned by Air Force personnel became the home of the 825th Radar Squadron.
In 1962, the Royal Canadian Air Force accepted responsibility for the manning of the radar site. This brought about the disbandment of the Air Force Squadron and the formation and activation of the 56th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron.
The 56th Squadron remained in existence until 1967, when as a result of unification of Canada’s armed forces, the unit was officially re-designated Canadian Forces Station Kamloops.
"Our primary mission is to collect, discriminate and transmit radar data appearing within our area of radar coverage to the 25th NORAD Region Control Center" said Major Ernie J Poole, the station’s commanding officer.
"We also have the added task of supporting 24 cadet squadrons and the Canadian militia (reservists) from British Columbia. The cadets are similar to your boy scouts or civil air patrol. We support them administratively - with a lot of liaison work, vehicles and supplies," added the major.
Major Poole participated in the first NORAD flying exercise in 1957 when NORAD began functioning. He served with four air defense squadrons in NORAD and flew the CF-101, as a Nighthawk, with the 409 Squadron at CFB Comox. He has 26 years military service including nine years with the 25th Region.
CFS Kamloops offers all the recreational activities available of a large base. Hockey, curling, cross-country ski clubs and volleyball leagues are just some of the winter activities that flourish; thanks largely to many volunteers and the station recreation officer, Sgt. Robbie Robertson.
"Kamloops is a fisherman’s paradise. Over 200 lakes surround the city and fishing is great. The cool waters are home for Kokanee, Eastern Brook Trout, Steelhead and the indomitable Kamloops fishing trout (which is world famous)," said Sergeant Robertson.
"Winter is a special time in our area, and area that offers winter activities beyond compare. Whether it’s skiing, snow mobiling, tobogganing or being a spectator at an exciting hockey game, Kamloops has it all."
"Another thing which makes Kamloops unique is our raft racing. In the summer time raft racing is abundant on the Thompson river. For the past nine years our station has won most raft races in our area."
"One major raft race takes place during Spoolmak (that’s Kamloops spelled backwards) days, in August, and another is the Overlander Raft Race during July. This area is crammed full of outdoor activities and our people really enjoy it." explained the sergeant.
It seems fitting that Kamloops, having been commanded and manned by forces of both Canada and the United States through the two decades of NORAD’s history, is such an integral part of the defense of both nations.
This article was produced in the March 1981 edition of the Skywatch Magazine, an official USAF news magazine which was published the first of every month at McChord AFB for the personnel of the 25th NORAD Region/Air Division (TAC) in Canada and the United States. The magazine was made available to the Pinetree Line by John Broughton.
Click on the description text to view the photograph.