Former Commandant Wins the Crowd
By 26173 (I) OCdt Emily Morgan
This past Tuesday March 15th RMC welcomed back its former Commandant, Major General Tom Lawson. The lecture room was filled with cadets of all elements and years who had come to hear him speak about the future of the Air Force.
The Assistant Chief of the Air Staff’s talk was a part of a series of lectures at RMC on current Air Force issues.
He began his lecture by announcing that he had “changed his mind” on the lecture topic and gave the cadets two choices: would they rather hear his advice on developing a theory of practical leadership, or would they prefer to listen to his thoughts on developing a philosophy towards a career in the CF?
By an overwhelming majority the second choice won.
“Ring knocker,” Maj Gen Lawson remarked, “is something no young 2Lt wants to be called when they arrive fresh and wide-eyed from RMC to their first unit. When cadets graduate they are fit, well educated, and have developed a taste for leadership.”
“[You] already [have] a huge leg up when you graduate RMC.” He went on to stress that the CF wants graduates to become “careerists” – members of the CF who are always thinking about the next step, are able to network and have a strong need to be promoted.
However, the 1978-79 RMC, Cadet Wing Commander confided that cadets have a history of running out to either a job that is not much fun or to one that evokes an isolated feeling. When they are at RMC they are surrounded by peers who are going through the same trials, and so, there is a solid support system. This is not the case once cadets graduate and are out in the CF world.
Maj Gen Lawson warned the cadets that their first posting won’t always be fun. “You will get over it”. He also made the point that one shouldn’t “undervalue the career” and simply exist in the job, counting down the days until the next posting.
To further his point, the former CF-18 and CF-104 pilot painted a picture of an officer who only put in the minimum throughout his entire career. “Admittedly, it is possible to stay in for 35 years and live rather comfortably; however, you haven’t done anything in your career to move up.”
Furthermore, he stressed that if that is what the cadets can see themselves becoming, they should get out of the CF as soon as possible. That said, with the skills developed at RMC, graduates are very well prepared for successful and affluent civilian careers.
Maj Gen Lawson continued his speech by explaining the projected shortage of senior leadership due to the low CF recruiting in the 1990s. As a result, “we will need your demographic to take on this leadership earlier.” Despite admitting this, he stressed to the cadets that they shouldn’t “be in a race to move through the intermediate ranks.”
His main piece of advice that he repeated many times: “be careful what you wish for”. Junior officers should not be disappointed if their buddies are moving through the ranks faster. What is important is to stay tactical for as long as possible.
Then the CF Officer of 35 years delivered his most valuable piece of advice: “cynicism is absolutely worthless. You are a leader.”
He impressed upon the cadets that after their five years of obligatory service they are all volunteers. They are trapped by nothing except perhaps a desire to hold on to the comfortable salary. If this is the case, “get out.” If the officer becomes bitter and cynical then they become worthless to their subordinates who look to them for leadership.
Another piece of wisdom the former CFB Trenton (8 Wing) Base Commander delivered was “the most dangerous officer is the one who believes those above him know what is best for him.” As officers move up to more senior ranks they will have to take into consideration issues such as family and marriage when considering new postings. “You must negotiate.” At this point the officer will be important to the forces and they will not want to lose him.
“If you have addicted yourself to leadership you are in the right place.”
The former CO of 412 Squadron ended his talk by posing a question to the cadets: “why do we want to be leaders?” One cadet ventured the response: “ego.” The cadets laughed but he agreed, and remarked that it feels good to be the guy that says what we are going to do especially when good decisions are made.
The next response from the cadets was “responsibility”. Maj Gen Lawson’s answer to this was that he was out of time and the cadets would have to ask him back: he had a mess dinner to attend.
Overall, Maj Gen Lawson’s imparted wisdom was practical and his candid and humorous delivery was very much appreciated by the cadets. No doubt the Cadet Wing will benefit from future lectures from their former Commandant.
MGen Tom Lawson Big Hit with Cadets at Air Force Mess Dinner
By: 24347 OCdt (IV) Meghan McCready
This past Tuesday, March 15th, the final fourth year elemental mess dinner took place. All those Officer Cadets, who in two short months will receive commissions into the Air Force sat down in the Senior Staff Mess and were extremely pleased to welcome Major-General Tom Lawson, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff and former RMC Commandant back to the College as their guest of honour.
For the eighty-four Air Force cadets in attendance, it was extremely poignant that the officer who had welcomed them to the College four short years ago was now once again providing guidance to them as they embark on their Air Force careers post-RMC. For MGen Lawson, as he himself remarked, it was very much a homecoming of sorts.
Throughout his career, MGen Lawson has served not only across Canada but also around the world; however, he has returned to the institution where his career began 36 years ago on three different occasions. After the dinner, where only a few chairs were stolen when their occupants escaped to the bathroom during the meal, MGen Lawson began his address by reflecting of the growth of the class of 2011 and all that they have accomplished.
Though most of the references were related to maturity in the case of OCdt Nathan Cooke, MGen Lawson jokingly commented that his growth was physical and that the cadet who stands head and shoulders above some of the tallest at the College was “only 5’2” when he first arrived.” The ACAS then went on to speak of the exciting Air Force that the class is about to join. He commented on how over his long career he truly believes that there is no better time to be entering the element and that with over half the fleet having recently been replaced and more to follow, the operational world will be fast-paced and endless.
Furthermore, he commented on the reliance that the Army and Navy have on the Air Force and that the other two components would struggle to operate at the necessary level without the assistance of the air component.
Finally MGen Lawson explained what would be expected of the soon-to-be junior officers and what should be the primary focus at the start of their careers: technical excellence, seeking out leadership opportunities and being as prepared as possible for the challenges to come. Although the official part of the evening was the traditional demonstration by the Pipes and Drums and Highland Dancers, the night carried on into the wee hours with Cadets, guests and staff reminiscing on four years at the college and an impromptu sing-a-long to the “Piano Man”.
The class of 2011 were extremely honoured that MGen Lawson took time out of his busy schedule to join them during the dinner, and they look forward to catching up again when he once again returns to RMC on May 20th, 2011 to join in the celebrations following the commissioning parade. [email protected]
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We were indeed fortunate to exchange an e-mail with MGen Lawson the day following his visit to the college. Here is what he had to say:
“I was very pleased to have the opportunity to mix with the Cadet Wing for an afternoon and evening. It is clear that Commodore Truelove, his command staff and the faculty, have the Class of 2011 finely honed for graduation, and to take on the leadership roles we have waiting for them. They happen to be graduating as the equipment and fleets in all three environments are being replaced and refurbished, and at a time when the government regularly sees fit to employ the CF to further Canadian interests at home and abroad. This graduating class could not be better placed for wonderful and challenging careers.
At the Air Force Mess Dinner last night, I told the cadets to buckle in and be ready for an exciting ride. They told me quite clearly that although they have loved their time at the College, there are 66 days to graduation and they are ready for the next phase of their young careers.”