Three generations mark RCAF service at annual mess dinner

News Article / April 16, 2018

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By Sara White

When 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, held its annual Royal Canadian Air Force mess dinner on March 28, 2018, the event was a very special occasion for a multi-generation service family.

Warrant Officer (retired) Erle Dolsen, 95, was a special guest at the dinner. Warrant Officer Dolsen was the bandmaster at the base for 10 years, and played an integral role in the early years of the base’s Lake Pleasant Campground. He served for 32 years, retiring in 1975, and continues to be known as a musician, playing “The Last Post” at hundreds of school and community services and memorials every year since 1962.

He has been a dedicated member of the Royal Canadian Legion Ortona 69 Branch in Berwick, Nova Scotia, having held every executive position at the branch. He received the Legion’s highest award, the Palm Leaf, and was named Berwick’s volunteer of the year. In November 2017, he attended the dedication ceremony for a 14 Wing Greenwood bands’ display at the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum, marking the 75th anniversary of military music at Greenwood.

At Warrant Officer Dolsen’s request, an invitation was extended to his son, Sergeant (retired) Craig Dolsen, to also attend the Mess Dinner. Sergeant Dolsen was himself posted to 14 Wing Greenwood in 1985, and retired under the Force Reduction Program in 1992, after 22 years of Regular Force service. After a short real estate career, Sergeant Dolsen joined the Air Reserve at 14 Wing and continued his service another 14 years, until age 60. For almost all his time in the military, he was a technical instructor for Aurora avionics systems.

The March 28 dinner was their first shared mess dinner, but Sergeant Dolsen thought it could be made even more special. As a surprise, he flew in his two sons to Nova Scotia from Ontario, Captain Derek Dolsen, from Canadian Forces Base Borden, and Master Corporal Everet Dolsen, from 436 Transport Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton.

“What a wonderful time we all had at the dinner!” Sergeant Dolsen said afterwards while thanking the organizers who helped make the three-generation occasion happen. “My Dad was as happy as he has ever been, and my sons and I were as proud as can be. Some close diners remarked they would never hear the words ‘Father’ and ‘Grandfather’ in a mess dinner setting, and it wasn’t a reference, but actually addressing the real men! I imagine two Regular Force members seated across from their father and grandfather would be rare indeed. Even though this may never be repeated again, the night will remain one our best!”

The Dolsen men, combined, represent 101 years of military service to date, with more to come as the two youngest brothers are in mid-career.

And Warrant Officer Dolsen had the opportunity to play a familiar role, as he was asked to guest lead the 14 Wing Bands during their performance.

Sara White is managing editor of 14 Wing Greenwood’s newspaper, "The Aurora", where this article was originally published on April 9, 2018.

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