13738 Chris Hadfield – at Military College
Feature photo Caption: During Reunion Weekend, Chris Hadfield returned to celebrate his 35th anniversary from graduation with his RMC Class of 1982 classmates. On the Friday afternoon, not long before the obstacle course, he dropped by Panet House and consented to an ‘exclusive’ interview for e-Veritas with OCdt (III) P.R. Cardona – 12 squadron who too was dressed to take in the obstacle course. Chris was very kind and thoughtful during the interview and shared many memories from before, during and after his days at military college. We appreciate very much the time and the opportunity he provided to (III) Cardona and for that we thank him very much.
13738 Chris Hadfield – at Military College
Article by 27832 OCdt (III) P.R. Cardona – Photos by 27184 OCdt Louis A. Saulnier |- 7 Squadron
Chris Hadfield wanted to be an astronaut since he was nine, when he watched the televised broadcast of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the Moon. Back then, however, there was no clear path for a kid from Ontario to become an astronaut; he would have to make his own.
Born in Sarnia, Hadfield knew early on that, aside from becoming an astronaut, he could also see vital steps along the way, gaining skills as an engineer, pilot or test pilot. To familiarize himself with flying, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in his early teenage years and earned his glider and then powered pilot scholarships by age 16.
After graduating high school in 1977, he did not immediately enter university, instead choosing to travel the world. Upon his return to Canada, he resolved to pursue his goal of becoming an astronaut, and went back to high school to complete courses to guarantee his entry into a top-notch school.
In the spring of 1978, the Sarnia native packed his bags and headed out west to Chilliwack, British Columbia, to complete his Basic Officer Training Course (BOTC) and begin his university education at Royal Roads Military College, near Victoria.
“What I wanted to do was to follow a path that would lead to multiple interesting options – ones that I believed in, and that I liked,” he said about enrolling in military college, “and that might also someday qualify me to fly in space.”
While BOTC was a shock to most of his peers, Hadfield’s time in the Air Cadets had prepared him for the fast-paced, no nonsense style of military training. Having attended several summer camps, he was also used to spending time away from home and living in a structured military environment.
After BOTC ended, the recruits began their academic year at Royal Roads. Before becoming fully integrated members of the Cadet Wing, they had to pass through a strenuous indoctrination period known as “recruit camp” or FYOP (first year orientation period), today.
Apart from reinforcing self-discipline and basic military skills, Hadfield remarked that Recruit Camp also “teaches you that there are many things in life that are greater than yourself, and that you have signed up for a life of service – that you are willing to die for something worthwhile.”
Hadfield left Royal Roads after two years to complete his degree at the Royal Military College in Kingston. Additionally, he spent one of his summers at CMR Saint-Jean completing his French training. As such, the former pilot has the distinction of spending time at all three Canadian Military Colleges.
“I think it’s important for Canadians to see the whole country,” he said, “if you spend your whole life within a stone’s throw just one place, you’re likely to make poor decisions”
While he was at the three different military colleges, he had the chance to experience the unique cultures of each campus and their surrounding communities. The Military Colleges, he found, though, were all fundamentally the same and a fulfilled a common goal.
During his time at the Colleges, Hadfield embraced the breadth of opportunity to develop as a leader and as a human being. Beyond maintaining high standing in the College’s four pillars, he was also a prolific musician, president of the engineering society, a debater, skier, marksman, radio announcer and the Cadet Wing Sports and Recreation Officer.
Luckily, as Hadfield sees it, the College’s four pillars of officership (academics, bilingualism, athletics and leadership), provided a model for not just the ideal officer, but the ideal astronaut.
“Physical fitness is about getting into a regular habit where you take care of your body,” he said of the athletics pillar, “and not to the point where it becomes some sort of worshipped idol or temple, but just getting used to taking care of it.”
The ex-cadet’s first formal leadership training had occurred when he attended leadership summer camp as a 14 year-old Air Cadet. Since then, his definition of leadership has largely stayed the same and he described RMC as an environment where cadets could be hands-on leaders and learn from their mistakes and successes, and those of their peers.
“RMC gives you the opportunity to develop as a leader under small consequences, to practice and improve,” he said “I learned a lot about leadership there.”
The engineer describes academics as the fruit of 10,000 years of human civilization and as humanity’s corporate memory. Unlike other species, we have history, art, science and can learn through our collective store of experience.
Finally, he stresses the importance of not just bilingualism, but lingualism. Knowing how to communicate with other people, without language as a barrier, opens new realms of knowledge and possibilities to communicate with another.
When he graduated RMC, Hadfield served as a CF-18 pilot for NORAD, then as a test pilot on exchange with the USN. He was seconded by DND to the Canadian Space Agency, who detailed him to NASA in Houston and as NASA’s Director of Operations in Russia. Hadfield flew 3 time in space, becoming the first Canadian to spacewalk, and the first Canadian to command a spaceship (Commander of the International Space Station).
Today, Chris Hadfield’s name is practically synonymous with spaceflight. He leads a public life, promoting exploration and stimulating interest in STEM fields. Despite his success, he has not lost sight of his roots and continues to believe in the value of Canada’s military colleges.
This September, Chris Hadfield rejoined the graduating Class of 1982 to participate in Reunion Weekend events. The retired Colonel made sure to have as much interaction as he could with cadets during the weekend. To this end, he participated in the year’s legacy dinner, watched the obstacle course and badging parade, and was seen around campus attending meals with cadets.
While he believes in the value of maintaining friendships with his old classmates and reminiscing about past glory, he states that the true value of Reunion Weekend is to set the example of what’s achievable.
In the business of day-to-day lives, Cadets tend to lose sight of the bigger picture and forget to aspire to become great themselves. Seeing a Chris Hadfield, or a Marc Garneau (who attended RMC in the 1960s), walking around the Peninsula can certainly help any RMC cadet picture themselves in an exceptional future.
As Colonel Hadfield says: “I was hugely inspired by people who had the courage, skill and tenacity to do outlandish things when I was growing up.”