Honorary colonels explore future of the RCAF

News Article / November 27, 2017

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By Honorary Colonel Dan Hennessey

The RCAF’s next Honorary Colonel’s Conference will be held June 6 to 8, 2018, and co-hosted by 12 Wing Shearwater, Nova Scotia, and 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia.

Colonel Colin Keiver, 8 Wing Trenton’s commander, opened the base gates and welcomed the 2017 Honorary Colonels’ Conference to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario, earlier this year.

This year’s conference was a tremendous mix of briefings, networking and tours of the many strategic functional areas of Trenton.

Close to 60 honorary colonels from across Canada used the opening meet and greet on May 31 to rekindle old friendships and establish new ones with those who had assumed their role since last year’s conference in Borden, Ontario. Lieutenant-General Mike Hood, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, gave us all a warm welcome, and presented a brief overview of the next few days` schedule. The theme of the conference was air mobility and search and rescue, he said, and we would receive hands-on and up-close exposure to personnel, equipment and systems used to deploy the Canadian Armed Forces in response to national and international crises. Lieutenant-General Hood emphasized the RCAF continues to serve as the “guarantor of Canadian sovereignty”.

The commander of the RCAF gathers RCAF honorary colonels together annually to meet those who are newly appointed, to bring everyone up to date on the strategic picture and operational activities, and to apprise them of the current state of equipment procurement and personnel. It also serves as an ideal forum for networking among the cadre of honoraries. The conference is purposefully held in a different location each year to provide the honorary colonels with exposure to a full range of operational environments.

Day two found us at the Canadian Force Aerospace Warfare Centre, which is referred to as the “engine” of Air Force transformation and the centre of excellence for airpower development. The morning consisted of briefings from the commander who, as always, emphasized the importance of the honorary colonel program to the Air Force now and moving into the future; he stressed that each of us were chosen wisely for our skill sets, which should never be taken for granted. He also delivered a comprehensive report on the direction of the RCAF, focussing what will occur between today and 2030. He spoke about the release of the new Defence Policy, which will see a significant investment that will ensure the Canadian Armed Forces remains a flexible, responsive, combat capable force, prepared to deploy anywhere in the world, anytime. The new Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, will also care for personnel, as everyone in uniform is a vital component of CAF success.

Major-General Christian Drouin, commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region, delivered a comprehensive overview of RCAF operations across Canada and around the world, dealing with operational readiness and the personnel needed to complete those missions – whether it is search and rescue or NORAD commitments. The presentation ended with the message of “Mission First...People Always”.

Brigadier-General Dave Cochrane, commander of 2 Canadian Air Division, spoke about the ability to deliver advanced aerospace knowledge and leading-edge training through a responsive, innovative and effect-based methodology to achieve maximum training effectiveness for the RCAF. He spoke of the importance of both 1 CAD and 2 CAD maintaining a strong relationship for a strong result.

We also received briefings the fighter capability office, air force development and the newest addition to the RCAF family: space (the new frontier for us).

In the afternoon we were divided into two groups. One group boarded a CH-147F Chinook while the other hitched a ride on a CC-130J Hercules for a flight to the Mountainview training area near Trenton for parachuting demonstrations by 8 Air Communications and Control Squadron. One of our own, Honorary Colonel Jeff Stibbard of 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, took to the sky in a tandem jump.

We then headed to 6 Hangar to tour the massive CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft, along with a number of other static displays on the topics of search and rescue, explosives ordinance disposal, a MAJAID (major air disaster) and the “Bird Man” – who employs falcons to drive off gulls and other birds that could be hazardous to aircraft taking off and landing.

The final day turned out to be a mix of past and present. We started by touring the Air Mobility Training Centre, where we were greeted by the commanding officer of 426 Transport Training Squadron, a unit which carries out between 80 and 125 serials of 25 different courses every year to generate operationally effective air mobility aircrew and technicians. The squadron also includes personnel who provide operational test and evaluation, and system support to air mobility fleets; the squadron graduates approximately 420 personnel annually. The state-of-the-art facility offers real-world scenarios, and the equipment housed here gives those attending training realistic experiences.

We then turned to RCAF history and had the great pleasure of touring the National Air Force Museum of Canada, which honours the heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force. This museum displays aviation history full of valour and tradition through a wide variety of exhibits, interactive activities and displays, including the fully-restored Second World War Halifax bomber (the only one of its kind in the world). For an up-close and personal aviation experience, historic and active aircraft are displayed in the 16-acre airpark beside the museum. The air park is also home to some 11,000 “Ad Astra Stones”, each commemorating the memory of a member of the RCAF and an Allied air force, as well as 35 monuments that pay tribute to past and current members of the RCAF.

The last day also included closing briefings at 8 Wing headquarters from Mr. David Gingras, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, on fundraising initiatives. And no conference would be complete without a historical fix provided by the always-engaging Honorary Colonel Stéphane Guevremont of 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, located at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta. Honorary Colonel Guevremont has written extensively on Canadian military history, especially aviation history.

Lieutenant-General Hood closed the conference, again stressing the importance of the honorary colonel program and the contributions of time, talents and personal resources that each appointee brings as they promoting their unit.

Honorary Colonel Hennessey is honorary colonel of 14 Construction Engineering Squadron, which is a unit of 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, but located in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

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