28560 OCdt (II) Bennett Dickson in Conversation with 20478 Col Chris Ayotte

“It’s not the events, it’s the people”

Article by 28560 OCdt (II) Bennett Dickson

This past week, I had the pleasure to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with the Royal Military College of Canada’s outgoing Director of Cadets (DCdts), 20478 Colonel Chris Ayotte. Following a short talk, we jumped right into the interview.

To start, I was curious to see what his proudest moments as the DCdts were. He explained that the job he’s held for the last two years has allowed him to see a wide range of amazing accomplishments and the development of well-rounded and proud Canadians.

When looking at the bigger picture, he referenced how proud he was at last year’s Commissioning Parade that saw the graduation of the Class of 2018. He explained that he knew he was standing in front of a distinct group of Canadians who had not only met the requirements of the four pillars, but had put in four years of hard work and dedication to get where they were.

On a smaller scale, he explained how the feeling of helping Cadets one-on-one was an experience he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Even the little things such as helping with issues of leadership or difficulties in a specific situation meant the world to him and is something he has and will continue to cherish.

We then talked about the differences between RMC when he graduated and the RMC of today. He explained how the institution hasn’t changed; RMC is still the same institution it was 20 years ago in the sense that it emphasizes the four pillars and focuses on developing both officers and Canadians.

He did explain, however, that the people at RMC change, which in turns alters the way we may perceive the College. While people come and go, they are what forms the institution and they are essentially the product of the RMC program. At the end, everyone who exits under the Arch is leaving as a prepared Canadian, whether they remain in-uniform for life or take on jobs civvie-side after their obligatory service.

When looking back on his experiences at RMC, Col. Ayotte surprised me when he said it wasn’t the events that he remembered so much, but rather the people he met at the College. One thing that he emphasized was the enduring friendships that seem to have survived the “test of time” and remained strong, even to this day.

When I asked him why this was, he explained how there’s a shared experience between Cadets, regardless of what year they entered/exited the College or what their trade was. Going through the constant stress of the RMC program and dealing with the hardships together is a more powerful and unique bond than we might realize during our time at the College.

When discussing his career as a whole, Col Ayotte proudly said that he enjoyed everything he did and he can’t look back in hate. His life had its ups and downs and consisted of a lot of continuous change, but there was never a moment where he didn’t learn something or didn’t better himself both as a leader and a Canadian.

RMC had given him the tools and disciple to do what had to be done as an officer in the CAF, but his experiences moulded him into the leader and soldier he is today.

TO THE CADETS AT RMC: There’s four major points that he wanted to pass onto all Cadets at RMC, whether they be in first year, fourth year, or studying in Saint-Jean:

  1. Take Advantage of Your Time at RMC: RMC is the perfect place to learn who you are and develop life skills that will be helpful further down the line. Don’t waste your time and make sure to keep busy; it’ll pay off in the end.
  2. Everyone Can Succeed: Regardless of some of your shortcomings or struggles in the four pillars, everyone can succeed at RMC. If you’re willing to put in the effort and help one another, anyone can make it. But one thing to remember is that the College can’t want your success more than you do, so you’ll need to work on it.
  3. Anything Worth Doing is Difficult: Sometimes it’s the hardest things that help us the most. Whether that be working out everyday, reading French books to practice your second language, or studying an hour more every night to get your grades, it is all worth it in the end.
  4. Be Proud: The fact that you’re studying at RMC makes you apart of a prestigious group of Canadians. Less than 30,000 people have gone through the College since it opened and even less have gotten where you are now. Be proud of that.

The interview wrapped up shortly after that. Being able to sit down with Col. Ayotte was an extremely beneficial opportunity for me and allowed me to get a better understanding of what RMC has to offer and some of the “big picture” benefits of studying here.

I am confident that I can speak for the whole of the Cadet Wing when I say that we’re grateful for all the work Col. Ayotte has put into the College as the DCdts. His determination, dedication, and devotion to the RMC Program has benefited us in every aspect and helped us become the great Canadians we are today.

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Following his departure from the Royal Military College this summer, Colonel Ayotte will be promoted to Brigadier General and spend a year in Baghdad working with the international coalition currently fighting ISIS in the Middle East as a part of Operation IMPACT.

He will be working with a team of allied forces as the Director of the Ministerial Liaison Team. They will act as the link between the coalition and Iraq. Their goal is to focus on providing strategic advice to the Iraqi government and acting as liaison between the Coalition and the Ministeries of Defence and Interior.

We wish him the best of luck on this interesting and unique posting and opportunity.