11th annual Legacy Dinner

City shows off military might
Kingston companies increasingly developing equipment for Forces

Kingston, for decades the place where the Canadian Forces developed its officers, is increasingly becoming a centre where it develops its weapons and armour.

And that new and emerging role for the city was highlighted at Royal Military Colleges’ Club 11th annual Legacy Dinner last night, where serving and retired officers gathered for reunion weekend and where the guest of honour was Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the Canadian Forces.

The chief of defence staff was presented with a high-tech bulletproof ceramic helmet and flak jacket, models of which are currently used by Canadians and American special forces, by Mayor Harvey Rosen.

The armour is manufactured by Aceram of Kingston, one of a number of local defence companies represented at last night’s dinner. The dinner was partially sponsored by KEDCO to highlight the city’s importance in the supply chain to the visiting brass.

“Any time you have a Canadian company able to provide this sort of equipment, it does us a lot of good,” said Natynczyk, who worked for several years at RMC after graduating from Royal Roads Military College and whose son is a fourth-year student at the school.

He said the partnerships formed in the city -between the universities that provide the research for defence innovations, the various army centres here that test and evaluate them in use, and the private companies that are increasingly providing the equipment – provide a solid future for the city as one of the hubs of the Canadian military, a sentiment echoed by Brig.-Gen. Tom Lawson, the commandant of the college.

“Companies here are well positioned to do this work, and I think they will only win more of these sort of contracts as time goes on,” he said last night.

Natynczyk, who replaced Rick Hillier as head of Canada’s military earlier this year, has established his reputation as the sort of rank-and-file commander that Hillier had been. In a short address to the crowd of several hundred RMC grads, cadets and visiting dignitaries, he praised the country’s wounded soldiers, those who were entering or in the military and their families for their sacrifices.

He noted that he and his peers in the classes of the late 1970s were now running the country’s military in senior positions, and those who had joined in the last few years were doing much of the fighting – and sometimes the dying – in places such as Afghanistan.

“When we lose them, we grieve. When they are wounded, we grieve,” he told the crowd, never once standing behind the podium set up for his use but preferring to wander through the crowd.

He spoke of recently visiting a master corporal who had lost a foot in Afghanistan, noting that the man wanted to resume his military career with an artificial foot and the military was going to let him.

“We are going to offer that young man, that incredible warrior, a career, and that will tell how much things have changed,” Natynczyk told the crowd. He stressed how much time and energy the military put into training, knowing it would have a real-world application as soon as the personnel report for duty.

“As you leave this parade square, you are going into a Canadian Forces that has never been stronger in the 34 years I’ve been in.”

NOTE: Legacy Dinner photos available on Website soon.