Farewell 20478 BGen Chris Ayotte; Welcome 21217 Col Corinna Heilman

Above (l-r): 20478 BGen Chris Ayotte (outgoing Director of Cadets); 18777 BGen Sébastien Bouchard (RMC Commandant); and 21217 Col Corinna Heilman (incomding Director of Cadets).

Article by 25366 Anna-Michelle Shewfelt

Photos by Steve McQuaid, CFB Kingston Base Photo

This past Thursday, June 6, 2019, saw a change in RMC’s senior leadership as 20478 BGen Chris Ayotte, outgoing Director of Cadets (DCdts), moves on to the next chapter in his career. A formal ceremony presided over by the Commandant, 18777 BGen Sébastien Bouchard, marked the official Change of Command between BGen Ayotte and the incoming DCdts 21217 Col Corinna Heilman.

For BGen Ayotte, the ceremony provided an opportunity to look back over the last two years and to give credit where credit is due. “Few people will understand what it took to get from where we were as a College to where we are now. And it took the efforts of the entire team working together to do that.” He went on, “When I first arrived at RMC I wasn’t sure where leadership was absent. It was immediately apparent that the military staff was solid. They were engaged, compassionate, and dedicated. It was the environment that needed to be reinvigorated to bring about change.”

“For me personally,” he explained, “that first year as DCdts was one of the busiest and most challenging of my career. But it’s the Training Wing staff that are the unsung heroes and the true engine of change. And I’m confident that BGen Bouchard will be seen by history as the moment when, and the reason why, RMC found its way again. It’s been an honour and a privilege for me to be here.”

BGen Bouchard was quick to ensure that BGen Ayotte kept his share of the credit. “When I first came to RMC, I did two things,” he said. “The first was to read through the Special Staff Assistance Visit (SSAV) report. The second was to ask around to see if Chris was the right guy for the job. And today is the report card.”

As the Commandant explained, BGen Ayotte has been a key player in helping to change the culture of the College so quickly. “That first year was certainly not easy. There was resistance at first among some of the staff. Chris took the time to explain why these changes were necessary, and to repeat that information was often as needed. In short, he inspired. There were some hard decisions, too,” he explained, “but I trusted his advice and his judgment and he did not let me down.”

To BGen Ayotte, the Commandant said, “Don’t expect the Cadets to thank you. Most of them will only understand what you’ve done years from now.”

BGen Bouchard had advice for Col Heilman, as well. “You’re the right fit at the right time. There’s so much to do. You’ll be busy.” With that in mind, the Commandant offered three specific pieces of advice. “First, spend as much time as possible with your Cadets. It’s time that’s well-invested. Second, take the time to recharge your batteries. This place can suck the energy out of you very quickly. And third, there were will be difficult days ahead. Take the time to look at the 95% of your Cadets who are inspiring and who will make great leaders in the CF.”

Col Heilman’s remarks were short and too the point. “Things certainly look different from this side of things!” she joked. “And I want to thank Chris for his mentorship and friendship. Your advice will serve me well. Thank you for leaving such big shoes for me to fill!”

eVeritas and the Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada wish BGen Ayotte all the best as he embarks on the next chapter of his career.