The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) gathers the Air Force Honoraries together annually to meet those who are newly appointed, to bring everyone up to date on the strategic picture and operational activities, and to apprise them of the current state of equipment procurement and personnel. It also serves as an ideal forum for networking amongst the cadre of Honoraries. The conference is purposefully held in a different location each year to provide exposure to the full range of operational environments.
The 23rd annual conference was held in Borden Ontario from 8 to 11 June 2016.
The 100th anniversary celebration of Canadian Forces base (CFB) Borden served as the backdrop for the June 2016 Honorary Colonel Conference. The conference brought together a large number of honorary colonels from across Canada to meet and discuss many aspects of their role, and the ever changing role of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The conference kicked off June 8 with a meet and greet, hosted by Lieutenant-General (LGen) Mike Hood, Commander RCAF. He addressed the honorary colonels and emphasized their importanceto not just the squadrons and wings they serve, but as ambassadors for the entire RCAF. LGen Hood then presided over a ceremony to present each of the honorary colonels with their new Silver Brevet Wings, to correspond with the uniform rank color and design change that took place recently.
The first full day of the conference started with a briefing from LGen Hood, entitled “The Commander’s Flight Plan.” He reiterated the RCAF’s vision, a simple but powerful message: “The RCAF will continue to be an Agile and Integrated air force with the Reach and Power essential to CAF operations (AIRPower in Formation).” The Commander was also proud to say the RCAF is the guarantor of Canadian sovereignty, and this will continue under his Flight Plan, which will foster strategic excellence and enable tactical success.
The dedication and unveiling ceremony of the Borden Legacy Monument was an amazing event for conference attendees to witness. This monument, created by Hillsdale artist Marlene Hilton Moore, is situated at the gate to CFB Borden and honours all of those who received training at the camp before heading to the many conflicts over the last 100 years. Over 5,000 people were in attendance for the ceremony to witness Honorary Colonel Jamie Massie, the leading force in having the monument established, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveil the monument. The monument also is the resting place of a brass urn which contains sacred soil repatriated from the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, representing the DNA of those Canadians who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice. This was delivered to the ceremony on a horse drawn gun carriage, followed by mounted soldiers dressed in First World War uniforms.
Following the ceremony, the honorary colonels were off for a tour of 16 Wing, which included CFSATE and RCAF Academy units, along with 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron. During this part of the tour, the infamous conference group photo was taken, with the CF188 Hornet as the backdrop.
Borden’s 100-year celebrations also included a gala “black tie” ball, attended by more than 900 guests: an amazing centennial celebration for Borden - marking its incredible contribution to the area,country and the world. The honorary colonel cadre is a group of multi-talented individuals, and this was evident when Honorary Colonel Sam Reid of 8 AMS Squadron – a founding member of the Canadianband, Glass Tiger – took to the stage and played with the RCAF band “Jetstream”.
The third day of the conference was filled with briefings covering topics that included operations, force deployment, personnel and resources, Air Reserves and public affairs. An afternoon session presented the “Honorary Colonel Tool Kit,” which gave each representative a deeper insight into areas such as morale and welfare, local fundraising, military family support, RCAF history and heritage, and accompanied by an engaging presentation by Honorary Colonel Stephane Guevremont on the 75th anniversary of the 400 series squadrons this year. The group realized the tremendous strength and capabilities they have as a collective team, and plans were made to begin a stronger networking platform that will help the group work jointly on new and exciting opportunities.
The formal part of the day was completed with closing remarks from LGen Hood and his Command Chief Warrant Officer Gerard Poitras. LGen Hood also took the opportunity to announce the location of the 2017 Honorary Colonel Conference, which will take place at CFB Trenton.
The Borden 2016 Air Show capped off an incredible conference, and featured, along with civilian entertainers, the incredible CF-18 Demonstration Hornet, CH-147 Chinook, CH-146 Griffon and, of course, the crowd pleasing Canadian Forces Snowbirds.