By Sandi Gohn
Canada is one of the U.S.’s closest and most important military allies. From jointly protecting North American airspace and regularly training with U.S. service members, to serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Canadian Armed Forces have a long history of supporting and partnering with the U.S. military.
In celebration of Canada Day on July 1, we’ve rounded up 15 need-to-know facts about the Canadian Armed Forces:
U.S. airmen watch the Royal Canadian Forces Snowbirds perform in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
A member of the Canadian SkyHawks parachutes with the American flag.
U.S. and Canadian service members train together at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA.
Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard members.
The Canadian and American flags.
A member of the Royal Canadian Air Force completes a post flight check during an exercise on Thule Air Base, Greenland.
#1 The Canadian military has its own flight demonstration squadron — akin to the Blue Angels — called the Snowbirds. Like their American counterparts, the Snowbirds perform jaw-dropping acrobatic air shows to crowds across Canada and the U.S.
#2 Identifiable by their bright red sweatshirts and hats, the Canadian Rangers, a part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, provide consistent military support in remote and hard-to-reach areas. These 5,000 volunteers are located through 200 of Canada’s most-isolated northern and coastal communities.
#3 In World War II, Canada gave out special badges to men who tried to enlist in the military but were turned down for various health reasons.
#4 Unlike the U.S., the Canadian Coast Guard is not a part of the Canadian military and instead operates as a civilian Special Operating Agency within Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
#5 However, with the longest coastline of any country in the world, the Canadian Coast Guard often works with both the Canadian and U.S. militaries to complete missions along its 243,000 kilometers of coast.
#6 In 2016, Canadian Brigadier Gen. Jennie Carignan, who enlisted in 1986, became the first-ever female combat general in the world.
#7 At only 817 kilometers from the North Pole, Canadian Force Station Alert, Nunavut is the northernmost permanently inhabited location in the world. Originally established in the 1950s as a weather station, CFS Alert has since transformed into strategic military location. During the Cold War, the location was used to intercept Soviet radio signals due to its close proximity to Moscow.
#8 Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who’s cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity has over 36 million views on YouTube, began his career in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a tactical fighter pilot. Hatfield, who served as the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station as a civilian in 2012, retired from the Canadian military in 2003 after serving for 25 years.
#9 The Canadian army was a pioneer in developing the digital camouflage uniform pattern that is worn by militaries around the world today. The Canadian army began its digital camouflage pattern research in 1988 and started field testing the first digital CADPAT pattern in 1995. In the early 2000s, the Canadian army also shared information that helped the U.S. Marines develop their MARPAT digital pattern.
#10 The Royal Military College, located in Kingston, Ontario, is the official military university of Canada. Unlike the U.S. military, which has separate universities for each branch, the Canadian military only has one military university where it trains officer candidates for all branches in the same location.
#11 Speaking of the RMC, every year (more or less) the university’s hockey team faces off against its American neighbor, West Point Academy, in what is now recognized as longest-running international hockey series in history. In 2016, the teams competed in the series’ 80th anniversary game.
#12 Just like the U.S. military, the Canadian Armed Forces use challenge coins. While there is some debate over when challenge coins were first used by the Canadian military, most sources agree that Canadian Gen. Rick Hillier helped popularize the tradition when the Canadian Army began to work more closely with their U.S. counterparts.
#13 Since 1989, the Canadian military has allowed women to serve in nearly every role, except submarine service, which was allowed in 2000.
#14 Canada also has its own military parachute demonstration team – akin to the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights – called the SkyHawks. Known for their signature Canadian flag parachutes, the SkyHawks, based out of Trenton, Ontario, have been performing for crowds for over 40 years.
#15 Unlike the U.S., Canada doesn’t operate any military bases outside of its borders, although its personnel can often be found on other NATO allies’ bases.
You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.
-This article was originally published on USO.org in 2017. It has been updated in 2019 for style, brevity and accuracy.