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On May 4, 2018, LGen Al Meinzinger assumed command of the Royal Canadian Air Force from LGen Mike Hood, who has retired from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Following are Meinzinger’s remarks from the change of command ceremony, held at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.
What an incredible moment and fabulous morning to be at this podium at this particular time . . . I’m thrilled! As I look around the room I see so many family members, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and Department [of National Defence], close friends, mentors, and supporters of the Air Force.
I am certainly humbled and honoured to be joining this bench of senior leaders here in Ottawa as the new commander of the Air Force; I’m absolutely delighted to be drafted back to the Air Force as the commander–its team captain, if you will–and to have alongside Chief Warrant Officer Gerry Poitras and, soon, Chief Warrant Officer Denis Gaudreault.
In fact, I can’t think of a better time to assume the duties and responsibilities that I have as the 20th commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. As a member of the Air Force family since birth, it is truly an honour for me to have the privilege of leading the Royal Canadian Air Force at this precise point in its great 94-year history.
I would like to begin by saying “Thank-you” to General Vance for the confidence you have shown in me.
General Vance, it’s been a real honour to serve you and the defence team as your director of staff [for the Strategic Joint Staff]. I would suggest it’s been an incubating–certainly a learning–experience, made, frankly, that much more rewarding by the opportunity to work with such a fabulous senior leadership bench that has been simply wonderful.
I would include in that our amazing and superbly dedicated leadership and team mates from downtown. I’m delighted that Mr. John Hannaford [Foreign and Defence Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister] is here to represent that part of the team.
If there is anything I’ve learned over the last three years back in Ottawa, it really is about this idea of “flying in formation”–a term that [Lieutenant-General] Mike [Hood] used in his command.
Success is driven by our ability to function as one team here in Ottawa to get things done. [General Vance], sir, I certainly look forward to continuing the work under your leadership over the coming years and the leadership of our deputy minister and our minister. I know [my wife] Joy is delighted to be alongside for the ride.
As some of you in the audience know, I became a member of the RCAF at birth in the Trenton hospital, indentured for life . . . sporting blue RCAF diapers, entering the world with the roar of a CC-130 [Hercules aircraft] engine on approach into Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
Since then, I would suggest, upon a bit of reflection over the last few weeks, that my life perhaps could be seen in three distinct phases.
Phase One included a 10-year period as a base brat in Trenton. I attended the base school, delivered the local newspaper with my loyal brother David, all the while getting to know every nook and cranny of CFB Trenton.
Those were great days and I stayed mostly out of trouble–but I certainly learned what it was to be part of a military family.
I began Phase Two as an 18-year-old, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed officer cadet at Royal Military College in Kingston. I began to learn what I know now to be the bedrock of our institution: values such as duty, loyalty, service and dedication and, truly, the importance of how we tackle challenges as a team, whether that was in the classroom, on the parade square, during military training, or perhaps even on the ice.
I’m certainly delighted this morning, in this context, to shout out to my commandant, Commodore (retired) Ed Murray, I’ve also got my hockey general manager, Maj Bill Oliver (and his wife Rolande), and many of my Class of 89 “buds” in attendance. Thank you very much.
Today, perhaps, marks the beginning of Phase Three–a period in which I have the honour to lead a superb team in continuing to move the Royal Canadian Air Force forward as a united and focussed team.
As it is our proud history that inspires us, gives us purpose, and guides us toward the future, I must mention that I recently returned from the opening ceremony of the International Bomber Command Memorial in Lincolnshire, England–the heartland of Bomber Command during World War Two.
I was reminded powerfully during that trip of the courageous contributions that RCAF personnel made during that chapter of the war, noting, sadly, that we lost some 10,000 RCAF members during this difficult campaign.
It was a true honour for me to stand with one of our Canadian heroes: 95-year-old Stuart Vallières, who was shot down on his 33rd Halifax bomber mission in the summer of ’44.
Held by the Germans for four months as a prisoner of war, Stuart described to us–we were a small group at the Petwood Pub, a famous hotel where the Dambuster crews huddled before their missions–how he managed to break the nose of an aggressive German guard who spat on him as he was lying on his gurney post-surgery.
Ladies and gentlemen, if that’s not courage, if that’s not a fighting spirit, then I don’t know what is!
Stuart, I’m delighted that you are here this morning with your son Dave. I understand Dave is the namesake of one of your courageous crew members from that fateful day in the summer of ’44.
It’s great to see you here beside another one of our veterans, LGen Richard Rohmer.
So if I could ask you, ladies and gentlemen, a shout out to our veterans.
I am immensely grateful to the men and women of the RCAF who are on parade here today. They represent what is–and will remain–the heart of our institution: the 14,000 members of the RCAF and our civilian colleagues in our squadrons, units, wings and headquarters.
Each of these individuals, day after day, night after night, contributes directly and indirectly to the delivery of air and space power for our nation. I publicly pledge to work tirelessly to ensure we do right by you for your dedication and service.
I am extremely optimistic as I look to the future. Our defence policy acknowledges the importance of air and space power to this great country.
The policy commits significant new resources to supporting our personnel, introducing new capabilities to enable operations, including our critical sovereignty, search and rescue, and NORAD roles, to name a few.
In the context of NORAD, this is a special year [the 60th anniversary of NORAD]. I have noted that and pledged to the commander of NORAD that my vision moving forward is to work in lockstep with this key command.
As the CDS highlighted, we are on the verge of deploying Air Task Forces to Mali and Entebbe in support of the United Nations, while continuing to deliver on current missions here at home and abroad.
This work will continue. Having been deeply involved in Canadian Armed Forces operations over the last year, I think I have an even greater understanding and recognition of the importance of air power to our nation.
Our ability to deliver air power effects in an integrated manner with precision, agility and professionalism is our true calling card. I am immensely proud of what the incredible members of the RCAF–and their families–do each and every day for Canadians.
As your new commander, I intend to maintain our sterling reputation for delivering operational excellence at home and abroad–the true hallmark of who we are.
In my view, our success leading to the future and looking at the Air Force of 2030 and beyond will be achieved by focusing on a few things: amazing people (inspired by the likes of Stuart Vallières), our new defence policy, our program and our posture.
Without question, the foundation on which we will build our path to the future is our people. The RCAF’s outstanding men and women continue to be our greatest strength.
Air Force personnel are extraordinary, professional people, capable of accomplishing great things, who set standards of quality that are respected around the world. We must work to retain their exceptional talents and attract those with the right skills and energy to move us forward.
We must also continue to demand at all levels throughout the RCAF that we treat one another with the dignity, respect, and inclusivity that we recognize as being absolutely fundamental to our success as a family of professionals.
We must deliver on the defence policy and capital programs with discipline and determination.
We must enhance our posture and readiness such that the RCAF remains agile and able to deliver against the heightened operational output that is expected of us moving forward.
‘People, Policy, Program and Posture’ will be anchor points for us as we move ahead.
But in my view, ladies and gentlemen, the RCAF can only be successful delivering air and space power if we have well-led, robust, healthy and inclusive squadrons and tactical units.
I firmly believe that if we can get it right within our 39 flying units and our 85 tactical units, our future will be all the brighter. I pledge that, as your commander, as I guide the organization in the years ahead–my decisions will be rooted in the understanding that the men and women in our squadrons, with their rich and vibrant history, remain the lifeblood of the RCAF.
I wish to close with a few personal comments.
During my time in uniform I’ve been fortunate to have the support of a strong family, and thanks to the CDS for shouting out to them during his remarks.
With my father being a retired RCAF chief warrant officer [and] loadmaster, with 36 years of experience, and my Mom, the family matriarch, I certainly know that Joy and I will draw inspiration from you moving ahead. And, Dad, I look forward to your continued and passionate advice on RCAF matters of importance.
I am also grateful for my in-laws, Bill and Barby Swanson, who are here all the way from Edmonton. I could not have asked for better in-laws; your unwavering support of the nomadic Meinzinger family has been first-rate over the last 20 years. I want to thank you for all you’ve done for us through thick and thin.
I’m also happy to have such a fine turnout from the MacAlister clan and a special shout out to my cousins, Alan and Sheila, who flew over for a few days from Scotland to be here for this special moment.
Of course this day would be empty without Joy, Shayna and Nolan being front and centre. Joy–you have been the balance, the energy, the architect of all that we are as a family.
Thank you for battling through the uncertainty, the sacrifices and the pressures that typify life leading a military family. To Joy, Shayna and Nolan, I am here today because of your love and support.
I too must acknowledge the great work that LGen Michael Hood accomplished during his tenure as our commander.
Mike, you achieved such great success in moving us forward in a manner that has ensured we are on a sound footing. As your deputy for two great years, I’ve had the honour to serve with you and I feel very much connected to the path that you have blazed for us.
You’ve led the RCAF and served your country with great passion, commitment and vision . . . and you should be very proud of how you’ve propelled the RCAF forward. I wish you, my friend, and Maryse all the best on the next leg of the flight plan.
In closing, as the new commander of this amazing institution, the RCAF, I feel tremendously privileged to lead the members of this proud and distinguished institution.
I am extremely grateful for this challenging opportunity and I assume this command with the knowledge that much great and important work that remains ahead of us.
I look forward to working together with all of you, so that we may continue to build your Air Force.
Sic Itur Ad Astra. Thank you–Merci