Colonel Ian D. Isbester, CD
SAC 1950-1953

Ian was born into the army at Fort Osborne Barracks, Winnipeg, in 1935, the son of Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) and Mrs. Malcolm E. Isbester. Within a year he had has his first introduction to Royal Military College when the family was posted to Kingston and his father to the staff of the College, taking up residence in Hogan's Alley, an on site residence area for staff. His formative years were spent watching the gentlemen cadets parade, ride and study to become young officers. At the outbreak of war, the family moved to the other side of the Cataraqui River, to what was then the western edge of Kingston, where his father assumed the position of Assistant Adjutant & Quarter Master General at Military District No. 3 for the duration. In 1946 the family moved to Napanee, Ontario, on retirement, and Ian had a two year break from the military until he was old enough to join the Army Cadets in High School. Most summers included a stint at the Cadet Camp at Ipperwash.

The final three years of High School were at St. Andrew's College. Aurora, Ontario, graduating in 1953. In his final year at SAC, Ian was joined for the one year by his younger brother Malcolm (Mac). With so much military background, the natural place to continue the education was at RMC, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Fraser. Indeed, so positive was Ian that his career would be military, RMC was the only place from which an entrance was sought. So engrossed did he become with the activities at the College, he "volunteered" to take the five year program, thus becoming a member of both the 1957 and 1958 classes.

Leaving the College in 1958, on commission into the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Ian was posted to Kingston at HQ Eastern Ontario Area. Through the period to 1962, he moved back and forth from the Headquarters, to RCEME Workshops in Barriefield, Picton and Ottawa, while also finishing off his Electrical Engineering Degree at Carleton University. In September 1962, it was realized by those in charge of such matters, that Ian had never had a Young Officer's course and this oversight had to be corrected. Then, just as the days were becoming their shortest and coldest, he was blessed with a posting to Whitehorse, Yukon, first in the RCEME Workshop and then in the Headquarters. Promotion exams became a major focus at this juncture and the Lieutenant to Captain, Captain to Major and Staff College Entrance exams were all successfully completed in the two year period. Promotion to Captain also came along in 1963.

In 1964, Ian was posted to Gagetown, NB via a summer of Wainwright AB fun and games. In Wainwright he found himself as the BEME (Brigade Electrical and Mechanical Engineer) and in Gagetown he found he was supernumerary in the Experimental Brigade Services Battalion, doing "clean up" of a lot of unfinished matters, until a position opened up for him. It was an amazing experience to see how many Summary Inquiries one can do simultaneously, all of which seemed to have previously end up in the bottom drawer of the Adjutant's desk.

Less than a year later, with the formation of Mobile Command under way, Ian found himself one of the original 28 officers (and also one of the most junior) assembled to form up the Command, write the plans, design the organizations, beg for more resources and sell the result. Good fortune struck in 1966, after only a year at Longueuil, when a candidate was sought for the MBA course at University of Western Ontario and the Isbester name came out of the hat. This was two years of hard slogging, eased by a promotion to major in 1967 (A Centennial Present?). In 1968, the new degree was truly exercised by a posting to the DEVIL (DEVelopment of Integrated Logistics) program, the forerunner to the integrated logistics support which now exists in the Forces.

In 1970, a posting to the UK was a reward for hard work. (That was the story he was told but he thinks it was a case of needing someone who could move quickly. From the first phone call to sitting down at a desk in the UK was less than 10 days!) The posting to the UK was to the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and, as the Canadian military was just converting to green and gold stripes on the sleeves, all very foreign to the British, the uniform soon led to a new title of Harbor Master. However, as one Brit noted, there were two colonial officers at the School so he should be able to fit in.

In 1972, Ian was posted back to Canada and into the job as Section Head responsible for the acquisition of optics, electro optics, sights, laser systems, fire control systems and some communications equipments. Christmas 1972 was good to him as it included a present of promotion to the Lieutenant Colonel level which went with the position. In the summer of !974 he was loaded onto a french language total immersion course which took him through to the summer of 1975. In August of 1975, the position of Commandant of The Canadian Forces School of Aerospace and Ordnance Engineering opened and Ian was selected into it, with a promotion to Colonel. This became a four year posting of trying to squeeze more and more training into less and less time while converting everything to Performance Oriented Training. Those who were involved in this change in Training Policy can attest to what a disaster it was - and almost impossible to achieve success as the size of the Forces was shrinking.

The year 1979 saw a posting to the National Defence College. Those who were so blessed to get that tour will know that it was one of the truly great courses to be offered to the Forces. While there was a lot of travel, to all four corners of the globe and all the Provinces and Territories of Canada, the hours were long and tiring and the rapid changes in topics of study and discussion were enough to tax the patience of Job. Then, the powers in NDHQ decided that further service in Ottawa was required which led to a three year stint as Director of Establishment Requirements followed by seven years as Director of Engineering Maintenance Planning and Standardization. The latter job was a kind of Chief of Staff job in support of the four equipment engineering Divisions which existed in the Department. All this led to a final leaving of the desk about three weeks before reaching the magic age of 55, when all military personnel are transmogrified into aged and decrepit souls, and finally into the Supplementary Ready Reserve beginning in 1991 until age 60.

In summary, as an army brat, an army cadet, an RMC cadet, a regular Force Officer and a Member of the Ready Reserve, Ian has been involved with the army for 58 of the first 60 years of his life.

In retirement, Ian joined up with five others, all non military, to form a small consulting consortium which targeted a selected and limited scope of consulting opportunities. In addition, he has been involved in his church as a warden, in the very large Condominium complex in which he lives, where he has served for countless years on the Board, mostly as President and CEO, and on the Board of Directors of an NGO called CODE which works to improve literacy in the third world. A weakness is that he can never remember how to say "No!!' when approached for assistance. This has also led to involvement in a plethora of smaller, discrete, activities such as the Ottawa Branch of the EME Association and the NDC Association. He has a summer home on the Bay of Quinte which also demands a fair bit of attention.

Ian recently decided he was old enough to fill some of his time learning the game of golf and now only regrets that he didn't start into this activity 50 years ago when the body was more agile. He now has aspirations of parring a few holes in the coming year. Whether those aspirations will come to pass is another matter. Much work on the short game is needed!

Like any retiree will tell you, the biggest problem with retirement is trying to schedule enough free time to have a holiday and as one of his colleagues has noted, the secret to success in retirement is to have something to do each day when you get up - not that you necessarily do it.