Honorary Colonels in Canada’s Air Force

News Article / August 6, 2019

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By Honorary Colonel Kendra Kincade

The first time I ever heard of the term honorary colonel was when I was introduced to a lovely lady named J’lyn Nye. We met at a networking event. I remember meeting a tall, formidable women with fiery red hair and a strong voice, and I wondered if she worked in radio or television. Turns out she is a radio host by day but more interestingly, she serves as an honorary colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as well. I was intrigued. What is an honorary colonel? How do you become one? What is the job description? These were just a few of the questions that instantly popped into my head.

If you don’t know what an honorary colonel is, let me explain. An honorary colonel, by definition, is an integral member of the Air Force family. An honorary colonel is an officer on virtually all issues except operations. They work to provide a much- needed connection between the community and the unit they are part of.

How do you get an honorary rank in the military? Each unit decides who they want as an honorary colonel. The appointment of an individual to an honorary rank starts with a nomination from a commanding officer. The person may be a former Air Force officer or a distinguished Canadian citizen. Honorary colonels come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including public and community figures. Radio broadcaster/author J’lyn Nye is such an individual.

Honorary colonels advise. They are vital to fostering morale within the family. They mentor the unit and its members, and help build relationships through the honorary colonel network. They build and develop community support for their units by providing a public “face” for the unit.

Never in my wildest dreams had I ever considered that I would one day be taking on this honored leadership role. My path to becoming an honorary colonel began with a surprise phone call from a friend, Major Alexia Hannam, the commanding officer of 417 Combat Support Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta, telling me that she had nominated me as the honorary colonel of her helicopter squadron. I was honored, excited, and also pretty nervous to begin this new journey in my life.

After all the paperwork was done, I couldn’t wait to get started. I took on the role of honorary colonel at my March 1, 2019, investiture in Cold Lake, in front of family, friends and my new unit. Now that I have been in the role for some months, I am more honoured than ever.

I have been travelling the country and meeting new people quite a bit this last year, and being in this new role has provided me with fascinating experiences. For example, I have just returned from the Canadian Women in Aviation conference in Ottawa, Ontario, where I had the privilege to sit, wearing my new uniform, with military members and meet some of the many incredible women who are so proud to serve our country. A particularly fun moment was when I went to my first ironing party. Yes, ironing party. There. I was taught how to iron my shirt to military standards. This bonding became a session where other military women shared their experiences with me.

Recently, I traveled to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, for my first annual gathering of all the Canadian honorary colonels in the RCAF. The conference location was a perfect setting in which to introduce all the honorary colonels to expert speakers who introduced us to the life and ways of Canada’s North. I learned the importance of looking at Canada as a whole, and of not forgetting the role northern communities play not only in our history, but also today. One comment from a presenter that particularly resonated with me was when she politely suggested that when decision makers in the south of Canada make decisions, they should remember that sometimes those decisions affect the northern regions, too.  Looking at Canada from the North Pole southward, rather than just from east to west might be a more inclusive way of decision-making.

My first gathering with my fellow honorary colleagues included brainstorming discussions on how we could help the members of the military. Military families relocate a lot, which affects the entire family.

My learning curve is huge.

I still can’t believe I’m counted a part this family. I am fully committed to learning, listening, and making a difference. Who knew that my curiosity at a networking event, and my simple question, “What is an honorary colonel?” would lead me not only to challenge my leadership skills in a whole new way, but also to serve my country?


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Drafting and Survey Technicians provide both deployed and domestic drafting and survey support to the Canadian Armed Forces and other government departments anywhere in the world.

Drafting and Survey Technicians belong to the Military Engineering Branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. Their primary responsibilities are:

         - Collect geodetic survey data using the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and other survey equipment
         - Use data to produce digital and hard copy civil and site drawings, and designs of specific areas
         - Use computer aided design (CAD) software to produce digital and hard copy designs
         - Provide survey and drawing support to military specialist engineering teams


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