13139 Mitch Macleod: Airborne LogO Looks Back

“I made it clear from the get go I was not going to be a navy officer”

Article by 25366 Anna-Michelle Shewfelt

Hockey is Mitch’s favourite sport. He’s still on the ice three times a week.

For 13139 Mitch Macleod (RMC 1981), life in uniform didn’t always go as he’d planned. “I became interested in a MilCol education after a visit to the US Air Force Academy at Easter time 1975,” he recalled, “and I wanted to get into the reserve during my last year of high school which my parents forbid. So I got my father to sign the papers to apply for RMC when I was only 17. It seemed the only way I was going to combine getting into the military with a university education which my parents were adamant I was to obtain.”

He entered RMC in 1977 after graduating from L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Ontario. As Mitch remembers, the next four years were not easy ones. “I had two main challenges. One was severe bullying by a select few members of my own class, which combined with the usual First Year BS left me very drained by Christmas. I failed Physics that term as a result and had to write a Sup. Things did get better in Second Year as I think they figured out I was not going to quit,” the Toronto native explained. “More trying was the fact that I was recruited into the Navy despite having only put it as a third choice because I was required to have a third choice.”

“I made it clear from the get go I was not going to be a navy officer, which alienated me from the two Sqn Comd’s in my first three years given they were both MARS (especially given my multiple requests for reclassification).” As Mitch recalled, the trouble didn’t end following grad. “I graduated as a MARS officer and was told that I would have to do well on that summer’s training if I was to be considered for reclassification. I got a B on a difficult course even for those who wanted to be there, and was even told I was showing ‘great aptitude’ for the Navy! Six months after grad I finally got a reclassification to my chosen field, Logistics, and lost an equal amount of my seniority through no real fault of my own. It made no sense to me at the time and still does not forty plus years later.”

That being said, not all his memories are bad ones. “Spending three of four years in the Frigate was actually a highlight, despite having to run every time I touched that infernal Parade Square in First Year,” Mitch remembered. I also made two lifelong friends, one of whom has sadly passed on.” His MilCol experience also left him with valuable lessons on leadership. “My first two naval Squadron Commanders in the Frigate epitomized what I did not want to be as a CF officer. In contrast, the Director of Cadets, 4154 (then) LCol JA Annand, always struck me as being very tough but fair. I was very upset to learn he had passed away in the summer of 1989 when I happened to pick up a stray copy of the Globe and Mail someone had discarded at the Vancouver International Airport. He probably had grounds for releasing me after a less than lackluster First Year but he must have seen something there.”

When Mitch was reclassified Logistics in November 1981, he was posted to 3 PPCLI. “11921 Lt(N) Roger MacIsaac, a Frigate grad from my first year, was in the Pay Office where I was sent to work by the hold Division of the Naval Officers Training. I made it quite clear to him that I wanted nothing to do with the Navy. A phone call was made and in early December I was posted to Third Battalion PPCLI, which was then collocated in Esquimalt.” Finally in his chosen classification, Mitch had a busy next few years. In between Logistics Courses he stayed with 3 PPCLI until March 1983 when he was posted to 2 Service Battalion in Petawawa as a Platoon Commander in Supply Company. “I went on a jump course in early 1985,” he said, “and was posted to Airborne Service Commando in 1985 as the Regimental Quartermaster of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, which deployed to Cyprus in 1986-87. I requested a posting out of the Field in 1987 when I was due to leave the Regiment, as I wished to broaden my supply chain expertise, and was posted to NDHQ in Hull, Quebec where I was to employed as an Initial Provisioning Officer on various minor Air Force projects plus the tail end of the CF-18 acquisition program.”

Mitch (front right) on his Military Freefall Course in 1989.

Having taken up civilian skydiving, Mitch decided to apply for an augmentee demo jumper position with the Sky Hawks for the 1989 season. “Post season this lead to a posting to the Canadian Airborne Centre as Second in Command of Aerial Delivery Training Company, training troops in heavy drop techniques,” he explained. “In 1992 against my better judgement and mainly due to Branch Politics I was returned to Ottawa where I served as a desk officer in the National Defence Logistics Control Centre, which was followed by a stint on the Administrative Staff of what remained of Communication Command Headquarters . My final posting in the Regular Force was as Material Control Officer in Base Supply in Gagetown.  When I was offered a FRP for the third time in three years I decided to take my release from the Regular Force and start collecting a 20 year pension at the age of 37, having resolved to be out of the military by the age of 40 some years prior.”

The 1989 Sky Hawks team.

Logistics in the field with Atco Electric.

“When I got out in January 1997, I was fully retired and traveled for a year when I got back into the Army Reserve in Ottawa where I worked on and off as an Administrative Staff Officer in the G1 and G4 staff cell of 33 CBGHQ, including several periods of full-time call out. I left that to take an opportunity to serve as a contractor in Kabul, Afghanistan, for a year with CANCAP.”

Since then, Mitch Macleod has worked in a number of roles. “I moved to Alberta to work in a supply chain capacity in the Oil Patch in 2007, having grown tired with moribund job opportunities in Ontario. I lived in Fort McMurray until 2010 and in Edmonton since. Some jobs were more of a challenge than others and I have walked away from more than couple as my pension gives me a bit of flexibility,” he explained. “I deployed to Afghanistan a second time, this time to Kandahar, in 2009. Being under rocket attack repeatedly there was an experience I will not forget, nor will I ever forget the Ramp Ceremonies I attended. For the last three years I have been quite underemployed with a national company that sells, rents, and services torque tools. As I approach sixty, I will be examining my work and pension options. In the meantime this job provides me with supplemental income and something to do on a daily basis.”

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, there are more than a few highlights for Mitch from such a long and varied career. “Finally getting my reclassification out of the MARS classification in late 1981, for sure,” he said. “Attending Jump Course in 1985 and becoming a demo jumper with the Sky Hawks for the 1989 Show season, plus serving as Administrative Team Manager on the CISM Parachute Teams we sent to the Military World Championships in Slovenia in 1996 and the World Military Games in Croatia in 1999 (where I broke my arm and back jumping out of a perfectly good airplane). There was also wearing a maroon beret as an Airborne Officer for almost six years. What I remember the most, though, is feeling part of something that was much bigger than me.”

6 Comments

  • Mitchell MacLeod

    February 18, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    Perhaps one thing there was not room for is the fact I was blessed to have been able to have travelled in the course of my military and related career to many small towns and bases from coast to coast and as far north as Alert via Thule. I also served in Cyprus, and for shorter periods in Somalia, former Yugoslavia and Germany, plus Afghanistan. I miss those travels.

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    February 18, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Parts of this story remind me of another situation I got involved in 25 years ago, attempting to help another cadet who was facing similar hurdles in trying to obtain a change of classification.
    In that particular situation, the cadet involved was a young man from Newfoundland who enrolled in the Canadian Forces in the late 1980’s, at just 16 years of age. At the time of enrolment, he chose the infantry as his occupation. When he later decided that it wasn’t what he wanted or would be suited for, he made repeated requests for a change, all of which were stonewalled by his superiors.
    Finally, I suppose as a last resort, while taking part in the Phase III infantry course he went to the course staff and requested to be removed from the course, which they agreed to do. When he subsequently returned to CMR for what was to be his final year, he was removed from the ROTP program. When I initially encountered him a short while thereafter, he was a “Zulu” who was serving out his commitment to the Forces working as a clerk for the CMR club.
    The somewhat ironic twist to this story was that the young man in question had requested a change to MARS, and had been recommended for it by the College, but for reasons no one could understand, the request was denied by Ottawa. What was particularly unfortunate about this situation was that he was doing very well in all other aspects of his training: first class standing in academics, crossed clubs in the physical fitness test, and well on his way to becoming bilingual. He struck me as being a very impressive and dedicated young man who would have made a fine military officer, if only he had had the chance. Sadly, his career was effectively ruined when he was only a year away from graduating.
    I can only ascribe this situation to one underlying cause: bureaucratic stupidity. And I think it’s clear that these kinds of situations do nothing but harm to the Canadian Forces as an organization. There is no benefit to be gained by attempting to force otherwise highly competent people into vocations they clearly have no real interest in.
    I do know that the young man from Newfoundland eventually left the Forces without graduating from military college, but unfortunately I don’t know what eventually became of him after that (he would be in his mid-40’s now). What happened to him represented a real loss of talent for the Canadian Forces. In Mitch’s case, at least, notwithstanding the struggles he encountered I am happy to see that he was finally able to be permitted to pursue a career in the field of his choice, and one in which by all accounts it appears he did very well.
    I don’t know what the situation is like today, but I do hope that the Forces have learned to adopt a more “flexible” and “reasonable” attitude towards matching people with careers that are a suitable fit for their real interests and abilities.

  • Mitchell MacLeod

    February 18, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Mike interesting read. In my own case I decided to cooperate and graduate, and deal with the bureaucratic stupidity afterwards. In retrospect MARS III was a lot of fun despite me not wanting to be there at all…. for some reason I had aptitude for navigation in coastal waters so long as we came alongside everynight. The Navy had an issue with attracting and retaining MARS officers ca 1980. One of the highlights of my subsequent career was running into one of the obtuse, twice. Once in the AMU in Trenton on my way home from my jump course newly minted wings on my chest and bloused jump boots bloused; he expressed great surprise I was in the Army. The second at Royal Roads where we jumped into a sunset ceremony for their grad in 89. But his attention was focused on the CDS.

  • Dan Lamouroux

    February 18, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    Awesome read, as Mitch kmows I worked for him in 1982 in Petawawa, he was a great leader and to this day still friends, Servitum Nulli Secundus

  • Mike Cressman

    February 18, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    Mitch, I greatly enjoyed reading about your story. It is surely one to be proud of. And there is no way I would recognize you today with all that facial hair!
    Mike, yes, speaking as a still-serving Logistics officer on the VCDS’ staff, rest assured, we are doing better today. That’s not to say we don’t still encounter bone-headed decisions but I think we are less rigid in our thinking and slavish adherence to stupid rules. At least that is what I find working in the headshed. I accept that “in the field” there may be fewer avenues to promote and push through change. The CAF has chenged tremendously since I joined in 1977, mostly, but not always, for the better.