RCAF and USAF members honoured for dedication

As the world continues to grapple with the realities of COVID-19, the global and domestic responsibilities of 1 Canadian Air Division and Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters — effectively the operational arms of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) — have not slowed down. The many missions around the world that are overseen through the headquarters and its Combined Aerospace Operations Centre (CAOC) continue.

BGen Ed Vaughan, deputy command of the Canadian NORAD Region, presents Aviator Unica Jaramilla with the GRIT Award for January and February 2020, alongside her colleagues of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre, at 17 Wing Winnipeg, Man. Capt Mike Graham/RCAF Photo

This continuity is crucial for operations abroad, but also for NORAD’s responsibility to defend Canada and the United States, and it is made possible only through the dedication of the men and women — of both the RCAF and the United States Air Force (USAF) — who continue to drive operations at a high tempo. Recognizing this commitment is important, and while the evolution of how we conduct business in the COVID-19 reality has delayed some of the communication of some key honours and awards, the recognition program — like the mission — continues.


RCAF Aviator Unica Jaramilla of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) section has received the GRIT-FORT Award for January and February 2020. In addition to her excellent daily work, Jaramilla volunteers to speak at citizenship events, and reads about allied and adversary strategy. This enables her to provide critical advice to the command team.

“It takes a special kind of person to remain calm in a crisis and provide steady, honest guidance — she’s never afraid to speak truth to power, and for that, I am eternally grateful,” said USAF BGen Ed “Hertz” Vaughan, deputy commander of the Canadian NORAD Region and the Deputy Combined/Joint Force Air Component commander, who is responsible for overseeing and executing RCAF operations at home and abroad. “We need strong, smart warriors, like Aviator Unica Jaramilla, who attack problems from a new perspective. Her colleagues and I remain impressed with her dedication, initiative, and attention to detail. While rules are important for good order and discipline, we don’t need blind adherence to the status quo, especially in fast-moving airpower operations. This young leader challenges old assumptions, which makes our whole organization better.”

The award’s name represents the professionalism, guts and know-how needed to relentlessly execute the many missions the headquarters oversees, and to think outside the box while doing so. To capture that spirit on a recurring basis, Vaughan stood up the award and asked his team to identify those attributes they most admire in their teammates. Accordingly, the award’s acronym captures the qualities for which teammates are nominated:

  • Generous — a selfless team member who lends a hand and shares credit for accomplishments.
  • Relentless — doesn’t give up, and pursues excellence and solutions to problems.
  • Innovative — tries new approaches to problem solving, and is not afraid of taking manageable risk.
  • Tough — mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually resilient, and not afraid to speak truth to power.

As an added bonus, along with the honour of receiving the award, the recipient gets the use of Vaughan’s executive parking spot — a real advantage during the cold winter months in Winnipeg, Man., where the headquarters is located.

CAOC Director’s Commendation

In December, USAF MSgt Cherish Barthel was awarded the CAOC Director’s Commendation for her exceptional work with the CAOC’s Combat Plans team during two major coalition exercises, in supervising production the national Air Tasking Order (ATO), delivering technical courses to Canadian and American personnel, and for her work as a senior operations duty officer technician. She achieved all of this on top of her duties with the USAF detachment in the headquarters.

Put another way, Barthel has performed at an outstanding level across a variety of different areas of responsibility in the CAOC.

“MSgt Barthel is a highly reliable, conscientious and professional senior non-commissioned officer who deserves credit for her performance,” said Col Dave Proteau, CAOC director. “As such, I am proud to award her the CAOC Director’s Commendation, and she should be proud of her dedicated contribution to the delivery of RCAF air power.”

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