3547 Duane Sharp on RMC, Flying, and Ex-Cadet Camaraderie

“That didn’t happen, but I still spent lots of hours in the air!”

Article by 25366 Anna-Michelle Shewfelt

As is the case for many who have gone through the Canadian Military Colleges over the years, things did not always go according to plan for 3547 Duane Sharp (RMC 1956). “It was probably in my last year of attending high school that I thought about applying to RMC,” he said. “It was the first implementation of the ROTP program that did it, although I applied before the program was officially announced. I wanted to serve in the RCAF and saw the College as a great first step in achieving my early career goal to be a pilot. As you will note from my service career path, this did not happen, but I spent lots of hours in the air!”

Duane entered RMC in 1952 and, as he put it, he had solid performance academically in First and Second Year but Third Year was a challenge. “Third Year was a tough one, as usual, and I was very active socially and in College sports so when exam results came out I was offered the opportunity to repeat Third Year,” he explained. “However, I already had my navigator wings and was anxious to ‘get in the air,’ so I elected to take my commission and return to training as an AI (Airborne Interception) or AWF (All-Weather Fighter) navigator, and I went to Winnipeg for training in the summer of 1955. After that I was posted to the CF-100 OUT at Cold Lake, Alberta.”

While Duane’s time at RMC may have been challenging, it was not without its brighter moments, including participating twice in the Kingston cotillion, “a military dance performance involving Cadets from RMC and Kingston debutantes.” And what does he remember the most? “I had a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time! As a result I was awarded the most number of charges for minor infractions and spent many hours on defaulter’s parade!”

Perhaps unsurprisingly for those who went through RMC at that time, RSM Coggins is the staff member that Duane remembers most. “He impressed me with his great memory, assisted by the photos of each class member which hung in his office and which enabled him to address each Cadet by last name. He was a tough task-masker and disciplinarian, a great boxer and gymnast, very demanding on parade, always a gentleman, and always immaculately turned out. As long as he was able, he showed up at our five-year reunions and still addressed us by name! He was truly a memorable character who was responsible for instilling officer-like qualities in every RMC Cadet whom he instructed in drill and general comportment as well as in sporting activities.”

Duane’s career in the Regular Force took him from Cold Lake to Bagotville and then on to 3 Wing in Zweibrucken, Germany, for two years. He transferred to the reserves upon returning to Canada in 1959 and finished his engineering degree at Carleton University in 1962. When they moved to Toronto in the early 1960s he joined 2 Air Reserve Wing at CFB Downsview where he served as a navigator with 400 Sqn, an engineering officer with 411, and then as Chief Ground Instructor for both squadrons. He retired with the rank of major in 1978.

“My most memorable time in the service was the two and a half years I served in Germany at 3 Wing,” he said. “The flying activity was very interesting and we were proud to be a part of the NATO contribution to the defence of Europe.” He went on, “Flying activities consisted of training missions in preparation for a potential attack from East Germany and as I have often commented, ‘We never fired a shot in anger.’ During this tour of duty my wife and I had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and to experience living ‘on the economy’ and getting to know the German people.”

On the civilian side, Duane’s career has been largely in the communications and electronics industries. “I was employed by Computing Devices of Canada in Ottawa as an electronics engineer following graduation from Carleton in 1962,” he said. “The company designed and manufactured a range of military aviation systems and I was assigned to provide engineering support to Lockheed Aircraft for the maintenance of the navigation systems on both the German and Canadian CF-104 aircraft. This activity fit in very well with my navigation training and flying experience.”

“After spending some time in the computer industry, with both military and civilian companies, I established my own corporate communications company,” Duane explained. “For thirty years we provided consulting services to companies in two technology sectors (electronics and computers). After retiring, I continued to write for a variety of computer publications in Canada and the U.S. In the early 2000’s, I decided to consolidate my writing experience and published two reference handbooks, one on customer relationship management and another on call centre operation.”

Through it all Duane has stayed connected with the College community, although, as he points out, his classmates haven’t made it difficult. “The Class of ’56 was a very cohesive class and the extent of camaraderie exhibited by class members has been exception, even for RMC, which is noted for the development of long-standing relationships among Cadets of most classes,” he said. “I served as Class Secretary for ten years for the Class of ’56; therefore, I was able to maintain contact with class members and contribute to fostering the relationships developed in First Year (many of which have continued to the present. As a ‘reward’ for my ten years as Class Secretary, the Class provided me with a lifetime membership in the RMC Club of Canada!”

“As an interesting statistical side note about the Class of ’56,” Duane said, “I believe a check of the records of RMC ex-cadet will attest to the fact that our Class produced the most Canadian generals in peacetime in the history of the College, so far: nine General Officers in total… General Paul Manson (former CDS); Lieutenant General Jack Vance; Major Generals: Norm Freeman; Don Gray; and, Frank Norman; and, Brigadier Generals: Paul Argue; Archie Brown; Walt Niemy; and Mamoru Sugimoto.”

2 Comments

  • Ron Capern

    June 4, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    Hola, Duane: Pleased to read that you are still as “Sharp” as ever you were!
    Take care and stay well.
    Yours aye, Ron

  • Bob Smith

    June 10, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    Hi Duane,it was always a pleasure to deal with you on Class business when you were Class Secretary.
    You served in a dedicated manner, always giving the impression that you thoroughly enjoyed the role.
    The photo of you at the start of the fine article on your career is,I believe, from the cover of an excellent
    book on the history of the RCAF. They couldn’t have picked a better subject to show the face of young
    military fliers. My best to you and to Myrna. Bob.