RCAF Academy: Training non-commissioned leaders for the RCAF of the future

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Academy, which has its roots in the Junior Leadership Schools in Summerside, P.E.I., and Penhold, Alta., delivered its first leadership course in 1974.

MCpl Arthur Melanson acted as the parade warrant officer during his primary leadership qualification graduation parade in the fall of 2019 at the Royal Canadian Air Force Academy located at 16 Wing Borden, Ont. RCAF Image
MCpl Arthur Melanson acted as the parade warrant officer during his primary leadership qualification graduation parade in the fall of 2019 at the Royal Canadian Air Force Academy located at 16 Wing Borden, Ont. RCAF Image
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In 1994, the school relocated to 16 Wing Borden, Ont., and was renamed the Air Force Professional Development and Training Centre (AFPDTC) — affectionately referred to as the “alphabet school” by its students. It retained the Penhold school’s crest as its identifier. In 2004, the school was renamed as the Air Command Academy; in 2014, after the restoration of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s historic name, the school became the Royal Canadian Air Force Academy.

It is the centre of excellence in the delivery of leadership training and professional development for RCAF non-commissioned members.

The RCAF Academy, which reports to 2 Canadian Air Division, is led by the commandant, Maj Colleen Halpin, and the school warrant officer, MWO Jason Dunfield. The staff of 43, which is composed of Regular Force and Reserve Force members, civilians and commissionaires, is responsible for delivering the primary leadership qualification (PLQ) course and air environmental qualification (AEQ) course to more than 1,800 students per year in Borden and at the various bases and wings across Canada.

During the Basic AEQ course, aviators and corporals gain the knowledge necessary to function as members of the RCAF, including Air Force history, culture and values. This training is further refined during the primary AEQ course, where master corporals receive lessons on doctrine, policy, procedures, as well as social programs, from a team of qualified instructors.

MCpl Cloe Thibodeau acted as
MCpl Cloe Thibodeau acted as “vice president of the mess committee” for her primary leadership qualification graduation mess dinner in the fall of 2019. RCAF Image
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The next step of training sees sergeants attend intermediate AEQ courses across Canada, where their knowledge of doctrine, honours, awards, and the RCAF organization are cultivated. Finally, 30 master warrant officers and chief warrant officers, selected based on their merit and future employment, attend the senior AEQ course, delivered at the RCAF Academy.

The academy also delivers primary leadership qualification (PLQ) training to RCAF candidates. During the course, students acquire foundational skills and knowledge to lead in an operational environment. At the conclusion of their course they fill all leadership positions on their graduation parade and act as the president of the Mess Committee and vice-president of the Mess Committee at their training mess dinner. (Mess dinners are formal dinners for military personnel that generally follow a traditional sequence of events.)

Providing a flexible, blended learning environment, the RCAF Academy is dedicated to preparing non-commissioned members to lead, adapt and excel in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces.

As the academy’s motto says, “Discimus Ducere” – Learn to Lead.

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