As 2017 draws to a close, Chief Warrant Officer Gérard Poitras and I are pleased to offer you our best wishes at this special time of year and to express our deep appreciation to all of you who are part of our Royal Canadian Air Force family: our veterans, our airmen and airwomen, our civilian colleagues and our families. Thank you for your service to Canada and Canadians.
2017 was an exceptional year as we celebrated several major milestones in Canadian and Air Force history. First and foremost, it was the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Throughout the year, we were reminded of the crucial role that the Royal Canadian Air Force has played in the development of our great nation and the growth of our Canadian identity.
In France, I was humbled to be part of the commemoration marking the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and to remember that Canadian aircrew, supported by their groundcrew, played a crucial role as observers and fighters in the days leading up to and during that pivotal battle.
Closer to home, we marked the 100th anniversary of the Royal Flying Corps Canada, which conducted the first military aviation training in Canada. From that seed grew the Royal Canadian Air Force that we know today.
We also made history when we received new Colours from the Governor General in Toronto on September 1, 2017. Our Colours – unique, consecrated military flags – embody our ideals of bravery, honour, duty and esprit de corps and symbolize our service to Crown and Country. Our retired Colours will be laid up in Toronto early in 2018, in a fitting gesture connecting our present to our past roots.
As we look back on everything you accomplished this year, we are filled with pride.
We see your continued commitment to achieving our vision of AIRPower – In Formation: an Air Force that is Agile and Integrated with the Reach and Power to achieve its missions, flying in formation with our partners. And across the Air Force we are advancing the concepts of innovation and airpower-mindedness.
You, the members of the RCAF, are our most valuable resource and the source of our pride in our institution. Thus, I welcomed the historic step taken by our nation and our military to apologize to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2) communities for the treatment they received. I am at the same time encouraged to see progress in implementing Operation Honour and I expect all of you to daily uphold the RCAF as a diverse, welcoming and inclusive organization.
Operationally, you delivered excellence at home and abroad. Internationally, you made significant contributions to the fight against Daesh and supported NATO in Central and Eastern Europe. You also contributed to relief efforts in the Caribbean following devastating hurricanes.
At home you were fully engaged in search and rescue missions and support to civilian authorities during crises caused by natural disasters, including forest fires and flooding. We continued to fulfill our NORAD role, guard Canadian sovereignty and much more. Our operational successes will continue to be enabled by your tremendous work and ethos.
We continue to go through a period of renewal and the RCAF is growing; with the release of the defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, virtually all our fleets will be replaced or refurbished.
Construction on the fixed-wing search and rescue training centre in Comox, British Columbia, that will train both our aircrew and our maintainers under a single roof, is underway. In addition, government’s recent announcement concerning the process to procure advanced fighters to replace our fleet of CF188 Hornets, is an investment in the safety and security of our country. While this crucial procurement is underway, we will continue to fly our upgraded Hornets on daily operations and missions. And once matching upgrades are complete on the supplemental aircraft purchased from Australia, those fighters will integrate seamlessly into the current fleet.
The RCAF is the force that, every day, goes out to address the potential threats to our nation; you are the guarantor of Canadian sovereignty. Air – and space – power, the areas of activity and influence in which we operate, and the precision effects we deliver in the defence of Canadian interests are critically important today – and will be more so in the future. Change will come and it will come rapidly. I have every confidence that you are ready to meet the challenges.
Now, during this holiday season we hope that you will be able to enjoy some well-deserved rest and time with your family and friends, whose love and support is essential to our ability to do great things. And those of you who must be on duty during the holidays have an extra-special place in our thoughts.
No matter what your belief or faith, we hope you will draw strength from the message of peace and joy this season represents. We wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, happy holidays and all the very best in 2018.
Lieutenant-General Mike Hood,
Chief Warrant Officer Gérard Poitras,
RCAF Chief Warrant Officer