A Testimonial to 12497 Chris Blodgett
“This is a testimonial to today’s honouree, who is soon to retire from the RCAF after nearly 40 years of service. Although we only knew each other for a short period of time many, many years ago, it was nonetheless long enough to give rise to memories that will last a lifetime. I’d like to share a few of them with everyone who is here today.
Remember, Chris, as you are listening to this, you’re not supposed to know it’s me.
Flashback to August 22, 1976. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but also a day following which our lives thereafter would never be the same. I had arrived in Kingston in the early afternoon, and was met at the train station by a fellow in an odd-looking blue uniform who would take me over to the College. After a tour of the peninsula, I ended up in Yeo Hall, where I started to be introduced to those who were soon to become my fellow members of “N” Flight.
I vividly remember standing there that afternoon, shaking hands with one particular fellow recruit. The contrast in our appearances could not be more pronounced: I was in my immaculate suit and tie, hair neatly cut; he was clad in a t-shirt and jeans, his long hair flowing down well below his shoulders. That was my introduction to No. 12497 Christopher Stanley Blodgett. Little did either one of us imagine what lay ahead in the days and weeks to come.
After we had been formed up into our respective flights and the families and guest had departed the College, the pleasantries quickly ended and the realities of life as an RMC recruit began to become readily apparent. The first two or three days were relatively benign, as we were gradually stripped of our civilian identities, issued our new uniforms, and our indoctrination into military life began. As Rook Camp continued the pace rapidly escalated, especially once our seniors were permitted to begin awarding summary corrections, a duty which they embraced with great relish.
As things eventually turned out, this was an area in which both Chris and I were destined to particularly distinguish ourselves. At the end of first year I remember that we tallied things up for the fifteen remaining members of “N’Flight, and as I recall, the two of us were respectively first and second in drill squads, and second and third in circles. To this day, I still remember the two drill squads I received at lunch one Sunday afternoon in September, when I got caught talking to Chris in the mess. For some reason he lucked out on that one, and as I recall, it was one of the rare occasions where he escaped unscathed.
Then there was the time in first term when I nominated Chris to for the position of class leader in our Military Leadership and Management course. This was a proposal that was greeted by the nominee with somewhat less than unbridled enthusiasm. I don’t remember whether he actually did get the position, but in some ways that particular episode may have been a harbinger of things that were yet to come. I think anyone who will remember the details of Chris’s subsequent undergraduate academic career at RMC will no doubt agree that the Canadian Forces could not have made a more inspired choice when years later they appointed him as Director of Knowledge Management. As one classmate very aptly observed, “I guess this goes to show that there is at least one Career Manager with a sense of humour.”
The year we spent together at RMC was punctuated by all kinds of other humorous incidents which, as I look back in retrospect, provided about the only means we had for preserving our sanity. One noteworthy example came in second term, when Chris got charged for being caught in Kingston out of the proper dress. On the day of his charge parade myself and another 5 Squadron first year were pressed into service to act as the escorts. What nobody apparently took time to consider was the fact that neither the other escort nor myself were particularly well-known for our mastery of drill. Quite the opposite, in fact, as soon became evident. I can still picture Chris’s exasperated CSC turning to him after the whole thing was over, and admonishing him, “Next time you get charged, pick a couple of guys who effing know how to march !”
Our escapades continued on after we left RMC for BOTC in Borden where, apart from the challenges he encountered in attempting to remain awake in class, Chris did very well. His natural aptitude for leadership soon became apparent to the staff, and as a result, “Bloggins” earned high marks on the field exercises. At times, he managed to attract attention in other ways as well. One memorable occasion in that regard was the time when Chris shed his trousers and shorts prior to crossing a stream. As he was wading through the water au naturel our company commander came up from behind to observe, and upon being presented with a view of Chris’s posterior, he exclaimed “Bloggins ! I’d recognize your face anywhere!”
As things eventually turned out, it was after Borden that our lives moved in two very different directions. Chris became one of the eight original “N” Flight recruits who made it to graduation in May 1980; due to circumstances beyond my control, I was obliged to miss that particular parade. I wasn’t around to see it firsthand during the upper years, but from what I understand, throughout the remainder of his career at RMC Chris remained true to form. He was one of those cadets who was in for a good time, not a long time, and looking back now, I can’t say that I blame him at all. One of our other former Flight members put it best when he remarked, “Blodge had more fun than all the rest of us put together.”
But as we all know, as the years go by, times change, circumstances change, and along with that, people change. Thirty-nine years after he first walked through the front gate at RMC in August 1976, the happy-go-lucky kid from Niagara Falls is now concluding his military career as a highly accomplished and respected officer whose record of service is a real credit to the RCAF. Having spent his entire adult life in uniform, Chris is now seeing one important chapter of his life come to an end. At the same time, he’s about to embark on a whole new adventure in the next phase of his life, and as he and Susan look forward to what is yet to come, we wish them well, and we know that they will embrace new challenges and opportunities with the same sense of irrepressible exuberance that Chris has been known for all his life.
As any Ex-Cadet who is here today will readily confirm, RMC in this day and age is a very different place that what it was at the time Chris and I were cadets. Someone once observed that the only reason that what really went on at the College in those days has never been documented is because nobody would ever believe it. As I sit here writing this, there are a million humorous anecdotes that come to mind that are too numerous to share, but that illustrate not only the sheer ridiculousness of the circumstances we sometimes found ourselves in, and at the same time, the strength and intensity of the friendships that emerged as a result. Chris was a central actor in a great many of the episodes of our trials and tribulations, and it is to him and guys like him that we owe the lasting memories of that pivotal time in our lives.
He may not necessarily have been the epitome of a “keen cadet” but what we will always remember Chris for was being a standout in the things that really mattered. He was a loyal and generous friend, the kind of guy you could always rely on, and someone who could always be counted upon to have a smile on his face and keep the rest of us in good spirits, no matter how difficult the situation. It would be no exaggeration to say that it was Chris and guys like him who prevented the rest of us from otherwise going insane amid the day-to-day havoc that was RMC 40 years ago.
And so, as Chris prepares to close the books on what has turned out to be a career of distinguished service to Canada, I would like to invite everyone in the room today, and particularly those members of the RMC recruit class of 1976, to join me in raising a glass in his honour. But before we do, there’s one final story I would like to relate. As you will hear, Chris wasn’t personally involved in this one, but even so, I can’t think of a better way to bring this testimonial to a conclusion.
Ex-Cadets who may be present today will no doubt instantly recognize the name of WO 1 J.E. Coggins, a dapper Englishman who served as RSM at RMC starting in August 1929 through to 1958 (excluding the war years). Notwithstanding his diminutive physical stature, Coggins’ force of personality and extraordinary leadership made him a living legend at the College. His name would not be recognizable to the vast majority of Canadians, but nonetheless he was a true nation builder who shaped and guided an entire generation of young men, and who left an unforgettable and enduring legacy at RMC.
Like any truly other charismatic leader, Coggins was known for his fair share of peculiarities. One was a memorable expression which he coined, and frequently used when cadets didn’t measure up to his exacting standards. ‘I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse, but not much” the RSM would dryly remark, in his heavy London Cockney accent.
The story is told that when Coggins was preparing to retire in the spring of 1958, the cadets at the College were rehearsing for the graduation parade that would be the last to be held during their beloved RSM’s tenure. At one of the final parade practices, the word went around that “this one’s for Coggie.” Ex-Cadets who are here today can well imagine the result. It was one of the sharpest and most impressive displays of drill that anyone at RMC had seen in living memory.
When the practice was over, Coggins stood before the assembled cadets. A lengthy moment of silence had passed before he delivered his verdict on their performance. It was the one and only time anyone ever heard the RSM reverse himself.
Were I to sum up my memories of Chris, that says it all.”
TRUTH, DUTY, VALOUR !
12570 Mike Kennedy