© Submitted photo
Canadian Ranger Neil MacAuley (centre) displays his new Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal at a recent award ceremony, which took place on Monday, Sept. 9 at the Royal Canadian Legion branch in La Ronge. From left to right: Capt. Daryl Bazin, MacAuley’s girlfriend Kim Ann Bell, MacAuley, his daughter Allison and Sgt. James Vogl.
A Canadian Ranger and aircraft engineer originally from the Prince Albert area is the latest recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Carlton Comprehensive High School graduate Neil MacAuley received his medal approximately three weeks ago at a special presentation in La Ronge, where he is currently based as a patrol commander.
“I definitely feel very honoured to receive it,” MacAuley said.
“I don’t know if I exactly deserve it, but I guess somebody thinks that I do. But I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”
MacAuley, who also works as an aircraft maintenance engineer for the Calgary-based firm Kenn Borek Air, was nominated for the award by his commanding officer Capt. Daryl Bazin.
Bazin cited MacAuley’s work organizing the patrol in La Ronge and helping out during recent area disasters as factors in his nomination.
As a patrol commander, MacAuley played a leading role in organizing aid efforts during the evacuation of Wallaston Lake and Hall Lake during the 2011 forest fire.
That same year, he stepped in to help out with flood protection efforts such as sandbagging in La Ronge, staying in contact with local officials and making sure adequate manpower and equipment were available to help.
“The award itself is given by Her Majesty, and it’s meant to recognize dedicated service to your peers and your community, and the nation as a whole,” Bazin said. “So I felt that Neil MacAuley had certainly done that.
“He’s been our lead in La Ronge since we opened up the patrol back in November of 2010. He took an active part in assisting us respond to the evacuation of Wallaston Lake back in ’11, and with some of the flooding that the province of Saskatchewan up your area encountered last year.
“So he’s been our go-to man, and every time we need him to act on our behalf within the community he’s been more than happy to do it -- and he does it to a standard that we’re very happy with.”
As part of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Rangers receive orders through a chain of command leading up to the federal government.
The remoteness of federal authorities, however, means that individual Rangers can sometimes be the first to bring local concerns to wider attention.
Such was the case when MacAuley initially organized aid efforts near La Ronge.
“I saw that the community was in need of people, and I just organized my group of Rangers to come out and assist with the floods,” he said.
MacAuley is part of 4 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group -- which encompasses the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- and specifically part of the Alberta-Saskatchewan detachment, which Bazin commands. La Ronge is one of four patrol areas in Saskatchewan.
Every time we need him to act on our behalf within the community he’s been more than happy to do it -- and he does it to a standard that we’re very happy with. Capt. Daryl Bazin
Bazin originally called MacAuley when the nominations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal went out, and then again to inform him that he had received the award.
“I guess I was kind of shocked,” MacAuley recalled. “I didn’t really realize that I was actually going to receive it.”
His commanding officer eventually travelled up to La Ronge to present the award to MacAuley in person.
“It was my pleasure to present him with the medal on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, and of course the commanding officer for the Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, who is Lt.-Col. (Tim) Byers,” Bazin said.
Also present at the ceremony were fellow Rangers and local dignitaries, including Lac La Ronge Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson and Mayor Thomas Sierzycki.
“It went very well,” MacAuley said. “It was a solemn, quiet ceremony.”
MacAuley’s Ranger duties tend to require at least three or four hard training dates per year near La Ronge.
His regular day job, meanwhile, has taken him to some truly far-flung locales.
Over the last two years as an aircraft maintenance engineer for Kenn Borek, MacAuley has travelled aboard Douglas DC-3 planes to destinations such as Antarctica, Germany, Iceland, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic.
“They’re pretty remote places,” he said. “It varies in work, but a lot of it is scientific research. So we’re there to support the scientists -- whether it’s moving them around or whatever equipment they need or supplies or things like that.”
Despite his high-flying lifestyle, MacAuley takes care to remain available during training and patrol days with the Canadian Rangers.
Should he happen to be absent during a critical situation, he can still organize his patrol via email and cellphone.
“If I’m in town and an emergency comes up, then I definitely am involved in organizing that and things like that,” he said.
“But I mean, you’ve got 28 Rangers in the patrol here at La Ronge, so there’s always a few Rangers that are available to aid the community when it needs to be done.”