Well, I can tell you that it’s much easier to decide to join an organization than it is to leave it; To know when to leave, though, to recognize when the time has come for you to move on to something else can be difficult, even worrisome. But yet, it can also be heart-warming as it gets you to ponder about all those wonderful years, all those friendships you’ve made, all those memories that are yours forever. So, my decision to retire from the Canadian Forces made me do just that, and that’s when, looking back, I realized that my military journey didn’t end up being anything close to what I could have envisioned. I say “could” because I didn’t really know what it was going to be like as I didn’t have any preconceived career aspirations, other than becoming the first reserve CDS, of course, but that came to me much later.1
So, all in all, I will have spent just over 27 years in uniform, most of them at 424 Squadron, which I’m quite proud of. And if you’ll allow me to count myself as a Squadron member during my two-year stint as the last ATG Commander’s Executive Assistant, during which time I remained qualified on Hercules and augmented the Squadron may I add, then it’s almost 21 years as a Squadron member. Otherwise, it’s been 17 years of continuous service since the start of my second posting here back in 1997.
Throughout those years, I will have worked for eleven CO’s. Some of these names may bring back memories to the elders in the crowd:
1- Jeff MacDonald (1993-1994)
2- Brad Gibbons (1994-1996)
3- Randy Perrett (1996-1998)
4- Peter McKeage (1998-2000)
5- Luc Bouchard (2000-2002)
6- Michel Lalumière (2002-2004)
7- Russ Konyck (2004-2006)
8- Chuck Collins (2006-2008)
9- Tom Dunne (2008-2010)
10- Joel Roy (2010-2012)
11- Jean Bernier (2012-2014)
And I knew it was time to go when the person who was my deputy while I was S OPS O back in 1997 is now our CO. I’d be afraid that the next guy would be way too young which would make me feel quite over the hill.
So not having any specific career aspirations may be why I have no regrets. In the end, I believe I’ve always stayed true to myself which was to give it my best, never pursue specific rewards or promotions, but merely finding solace in a job well done. In doing so, though, I ended up getting promoted to the rank of Major with only nine years in. So, my career aspirations, if I was to have any, were being challenged head-on and early on by personal and family aspirations. In the end, though, once I realized that you are not “what you do for a living” but that you are much more than that, in my case a father, a husband, a community leader, then it’s easy for me not to feel guilty about not having pursued a military career.
So, would I have been a good CO, this I’ll never know. But there is one thing that I do know though and that’s that I probably would have found it difficult to become a careerist, which I believe is what you need to do for the most part nowadays if you want to climb the ladder, as careerists are often more loyal to their superiors and the establishment than they are to their subordinates; quite the contrary to how true leaders ought to be in my opinion, quite the contrary to the demeanour that I hope I displayed as a young regular force Major.
Maybe I could have made a difference I had stayed in the regular force, and yes maybe I could even have been your CO, who knows. But nevertheless, I still would like to think that I did make a difference, whether it’d be by putting a smile on your face with my sometimes silly or even gutsy humour at morning brief or better yet, by enlightening your days with my words of wisdom which I hope some of you found inspiring.
In closing: Life is composed of many different periods, some longer than others, but all part of a continuum through which we grow and through which we are moulded and transformed. This is why I don’t consider my retirement from the Canadian Forces as neither an end, nor a beginning. It’s also why I don’t feel nostalgic.
Allow me to leave you with my own last “Words of wisdom” created especially for this occasion:
“Appreciate the present knowing it is short lived.
Don’t let nostalgia take over as it will preclude you from doing so.
Do not regret the roads not taken, as who knows if they would have been preferable.
Appreciate all the chance encounters that have made you what you have become.
Rejoice at the ones you have yet to make.
Know to move on when the time comes.”
All in all, you may never be as important as you make yourself to be, but you will never be less important than how others perceive you as. I know that no one is irreplaceable, yes not even me, but at least I hope that I’ll be unforgettable.
Thanks to all that I’ve worked with for all you brought me, it’s been a wonderful go.
Long live 424
- Inside joke whereby I would often comment on how I hoped to get a PER – Personal Evaluation report good enough to make me a contender to become the Chief of Defense staff – CDS which, for all intent purposes would never happen as it is and will always be a Regular Force position and I had been in the Reserves since 1998.