Taking Command-Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Singh Sajjan
“It was absolutley refreshing with Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan in Kandahar. Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan is a selfless, motivated individual who through his hardwork and preserverance saved the lives of Canadians who were involved in combat operations of Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was constantly running down leads and piecing together information for the commanders situational awareness, providing intellegence for the tactical level units. His information for instance would allow us to choose certain routes based upon his assessment of information he would get in his dealings with the local nationals. Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan is thru and thru a Canadian Soldier.”
As Lieutenant-Colonel Bruce Kadanoff was ceremoniously handing over the Regimental Guidon (Banner) of the British Columbia Regiment to Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Singh Sajjan on September 11, 2011, history was being made. The first Sikh in Canada was taking over command of an army regiment. From the days of the Komagatu Maru incident to this day when a turbaned officer is given the responsibility of leading one of the oldest regiments of the Canadian army – it is indeed a historical event of immense importance. There were many wet eyes of joy in the audience when Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan took salute from the Guard of Honour as Official Commanding Officer. Relatives, friends, family members and colleagues held their heads high in pride when senior officers praised Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan for his exemplary dedication and commitment to the Canadian forces.
Humble, soft spoken, and committed to excel – Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan’s rise to success has not been overnight Initially, it was not an easy ride in the army training circles, as he was among the first turbaned Sikhs to undergo rigorous training, but his commitment towards his religion and his indefatigable labour won him accolades from his superiors. Racial slurs gave way to acceptance and he won the hearts of his colleagues. “Initially it was tough when I was targeted by my superiors, but later they found out that I was serious in what I was doing and they started accepting me. Today Canadian forces are the most accepting and diversity has become an operational necessity,” he point s out.
He attributes his success to his parents and his spouse who supported him whenever he was down and he is proud that he serves the Canadian army. Thanking his superiors for restoring faith in his abilities, Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan has big plans in the near future. He wants to bring more South Asians in the defense services and for this – he wants the support of the community. “It is a matter of pride for the community that a Sikh has taken over charge of a regiment and with this responsibility bestowed on me, I commit to bring more diversity in the regiment,” he stresses.
The Regiment he has taken over has a strong background. The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) is an armoured reconnaissance reserve regiment and as such it is tasked with providing qualified scouting soldiers to assist the Regular Force in meeting Canada’s military commitments. Originally formed in 1883, the British Columbia Regiment is the oldest military unit in Vancouver. The Regiment has a long history, during which it has been designated as Garrison Artillery, Rifles, Infantry, Armour, and Reconnaissance. In the course of its history, the Regiment has received 34 battle honours. It has been a member of the Armoured Corp since 1942, and subsequently in 1965 it was tasked as Armoured Reconnaissance.
Son of Sardar Kundan Singh Sajjan and Sardarni Vidya Kaur, Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan was born in Punjab. He moved to Canada at the age of five and grew up in Vancouver. His military career has been tremendously challenging and interesting. In 1989, he enlisted in The British Columbia Regiment . In 1990, he was accepted for Commissioning in the regiment and successfully completed the RESO Officer Training Programme in 1991 at the Combat Training Centre in CFB, Gagetown. He then went on to serve as a Troop Leader in Reconnaissance Squadron, was promoted to Captain in 1995, and appointed as the squadron’s Battle Captain. In 2004, he was appointed Adjutant, completing the Militia Command and Staff College course at Kingston and promoted to Major in 2005.He was appointed as Officer Commanding Reconnaissance Squadron in 2007, and then as Regimental Second-in-Command in 2009.To date, he has completed four operational deployments.
His first deployment was to Bosnia-Herzegovina on Operation PALLADIUM in July 1997. He served as Liaison Officer, Reconnaissance Squadron, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). During his pre-deployment workup training for Bosnia, he was also deployed to Winnipeg to fight the floods in 1997 and served as the Quick Reaction Force Commander for the LDSH(RC) Task Force.
In February 2006, he was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan on Operations ARCHER & ATHENA as a Special Intelligence Officer on the staff of Brigadier-General Fraser, Commander Regional Command South. In 2009, he embarked on his second deployment to Afghanistan, serving as Special Advisor to Brigadier-General Vance,Commander Task Force Afghanistan.
Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Singh’s most recent deployment to Afghanistan was in November 2010 at the request of Major-General James Terry, Commanding General of 10th Mountain Division and Commander Regional Command South. He served on General Terry’s Command Team as a Special Assistant.
In the course of his deployments, Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Singh has been awarded a Mentioned-in-Dispatches, Commander in Chief Commendation, two Chief of Defense Staff Commendations and a US Army Commendation. He is also the recipient of the Deputy Minister’s (National Defense) Award.
Apart from the military experience, Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Singh was a police officer for 11 years with the Vancouver Police Department. He completed his last assignment as a Detective, specializing in organized crime in the Gang Crime Unit. He also spent five years as a certified Technical Search Specialist with Vancouver’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team.
He is a Security Consultant lecturing to a wide audience, including specialized briefings on Counter-Insurgency Operations to both Canadian and US government agencies. Harjit Singh is married to Kuljit Kaur, a medical physician, and they reside in Vancouver. They have a daughter named Jeevut Kaur who is three, and a son named Arjun Singh.
World Sikh Organization President Prem Singh Vinning, who attended the Change of Command ceremony said, “This is a proud moment for all Canadian Sikhs. Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan is an inspiration to young Sikhs and he shows just how much a part of Canada, Sikhs are today.”
There is a long road of success waiting for Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan and the community is proud of his achievements as a dedicated soldier. Congratulations to Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan.