Lt.-Col. Kevin Tyler, former commanding officer of the Rocky Mountain Rangers, spoke at the university on Tuesday, Nov. 10, on his experiences as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Tyler served in both Bosnia and Afghanistan in his 35-year military career.
Bosnia, Tyler said, reminded him of a “Godfather” movie. He attributed this to the unpredictable and tension-filled atmosphere of the mission, as well as the inclusion of some very unique, yet violent individuals.
In the Bosnian Conflict, Tyler was in command of a mechanized rifle company of 120 soldiers. They were part of the NATO plan to reintegrate Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups (the Serbians, the Muslim Bosnians and the Croatians) back into their communities.
Assigned to Drivar, Tyler’s company would oversee the return of Serbs to what had become a Croatian town. Drivar was the test case for the Dayton accord, a remedy prolonged strife and restore the region to its former self. In the end, the accord failed.
After a month’s stay in Drivar, Tyler’s company made their way back to the CAF’s main base. Five hours later, they would be sent back to Drivar. A massive riot had broken out, with the city’s Croatians trying to push out the remaining Serbs.
Even though his company stayed a month longer, Tyler was able to find little information on what caused the riots. Eventually the Croatian ambassador would be outed by one of Tyler’s men as the organizer of the Drivar riots. This happened just by chance, however. Tyler’s soldier was on leave and just returning to Bosnia from Germany, when he met a man matching the ambassador’s description on his flight. As it would turn out, the ambassador was just a political science professor from New York, who had been dragged in the conflict by his people.
Tyler also spoke on his experiences in Afghanistan, where he had helped local police forces professionalize themselves.
Though Tyler’s main goal was the creation of new police stations and the training of new officers, death still surrounded him. He recounted on how he knew an American captain, who was winning hearts and minds in his assigned community, but was killed by an IED blast. As it would turn out, the captain’s death would be in retaliation for a special forces raid the night before.
“In Bosnia there was a lot of shooting and whatnot, but very few people got killed,” said Tyler. “[In Afghanistan] I personally wondered about my mortality, and whether or not I would make it out or not. Definitely wasn’t the thing I wanted to discuss with my wife.”
On Remembrance Day, Tyler will be on parade with his Rangers in downtown Kamloops.