Highland Games tug of war connects Army Reserve to community

Article / August 4, 2017 / Project number: 17-0233

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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Ottawa, Ontario — Most of us think of a tug of war as little more than a game but, for military Reservists, it is a part of their heritage and a simple but effective team-building tool.

Reservists from across Canada will once again converge on Maxville, Ontario August 4 and 5 for the Highland Regiments Tug of War Challenge, just one part of the 70th annual Glengarry Highland Games.

This year’s tug of war will be the 11th, explained Lieutenant-Colonel Bud Walsh, an Ottawa-based Reservist and the event’s director. He first approached Highland Games organizers with the idea while serving as Commanding Officer of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh's Own).

“For thousands of years, sport has been used by every military force in the world as essentially a training tool,” said LCol Walsh, “because it’s fitness, competitiveness, team building, esprit de corps. Those are the building blocks. If you don’t have those, you don’t have a military force.”

“What strikes me,” he added, “is that we’re marking the 100th anniversary of First World War events. The Canadian Corps relied on tug of war as an activity behind the lines, to keep the troops entertained. So they had corps-wide athletic competitions including classic track and field events and tug of war.”

The inaugural competition, held during the 2007 Highland Games, included just two Highland units: The Camerons and The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders. Their members had faced-off in friendly athletic competition before but LCol Walsh and others saw value in doing so before an audience.

“We started talking and realized the Glengarry Highland Games are right there in Maxville, basically between the two Highland units. Why don’t we have that competition in front of people for once? The crowd loved it and it’s grown from there.”

Ten teams are registered for this year. Any others able to make the trip are welcome, so long as they arrive in time for a morning briefing on August 5.

“We could accommodate upwards of 24 teams,” said LCol Walsh. “There’s definitely room to grow.”

While there is certainly an element of entertainment, LCol Walsh added that being in the public eye is also an opportunity for interaction.

“This is about supporting the Reserve and Reserve engagement with community. In my experience, when people join their local Reserve units, the process begins as a conversation at home. The harder part is getting them to knock on the door, to meet somebody face to face to learn more. When the troops are out there they meet thousands of people. They’re like rock stars for the weekend. And that connection is happening.”

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