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  • Former DCdt Layne Larson In Conversation With Victoria Edwards

Former DCdt Layne Larson In Conversation With Victoria Edwards

 IV IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES ON FORMER DIRECTOR OF CADETS

E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed # 5573 Col (Ret’d) Layne Larsen (RRMC 1962), who served as Director of Cadets (DCdts} and as Vice Commandant at RMC from June 1981 until August 1983.

e-veritas: You are a member of the first degree class in engineering at RMC.

Layne Larsen: I started my military career at RRMC 1958-60, followed by RMC from 1960-62. This was the first degree class in engineering and I don’t know how much that had to do with it, but the attrition was horrendous. Of our 91 entrants at RRMC, only 50 made it into 2nd year. At the three colleges (not counting four repeaters from class of 61), 330 recruits entered the system, 136 graduated— an attrition rate approaching 60%. From Jun 62-Sep62 I was at the #2 Air Navigation School, Winnipeg completed phase IV to “wings” standard. In those days, phase training began right after first year and continued each summer. For some Military Occupation Codes (MOCs) this meant virtually no leave; by the time I graduated, I had something like 55 days accumulated leave!

Sep62-Mar63 #2 (Maritime) OTU, Summerside PEI, on P2V7-H Neptune aircraft

Apr63-Sep64 405 (Maritime) Patrol Sqn, Greenwood, NS- operational radio officer on CP-107 Argus aircraft

Oct 64-Mar66 Operation Flight and Tactical Training Unit, Greenwood, NS – radar instructor

e-veritas: You served as a research associate and attended graduate school at RMC over the objections of your career manager.

Layne Larsen: From Mar66-Sep67, I served at Aeronautical Engineering Test Establishment, Uplands, ON, with

detached duty as a Special Research Associate at RMC. In late 65, I had put in a suggestion award to improve

the Argus radar and it had apparently come to the attention of 2399 Vice-Admiral William Landymore (RMC

1934), COMD/MARCOM, who decided (over the objections of my career manager) that I was going to RMC to

work on the problem, and would also earn a Master of Engineering degree. At the time, DND was not

subsidizing full-time post-graduate studies so the only way to do that was post me to Aerospace Engineering

Test Establishment (AETE). (This was fraught with difficulty itself. On reporting to AETE I had to withstand a

tirade from the CO about the uselessness of giving an aircrew officer a post-Grad degree, why wasn’t this being

done by an AERE officer, and his main complaint was that I would be “blocking” a position on his staff for at

least a year)

Nov67-Feb71 Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI), NDHQ. There is a two month gap here while I sat around waiting for a job. As DG Posting and Careers-Officers (an RCAF A/C) told me. “You were over educated for aircrew when we gave you a bachelor’s degree, now what are we going to do with you”.

(DSTI was staffed mostly by civilian defence scientists).

Promoted Major

Mar71-Oct71 CF Air Navigation School, Winnipeg, cross training to long-range navigator

Nov71-May72 449 (Maritime Operational Training Unit (OTU) Sqn, Greenwood, NS

May72-Sep74 404 (Maritime) Patrol Squadron, Greenwood , NS. Line navigator, TACCO, Standards Flight Cdr

Sep74-Sep75 SO Organization and Establishments, MARCOM HQ, Halifax

Sep75-May76 CF Command and Staff College, Toronto. Promoted LCol

Jun76-May81 Director, Defence Services Program Information System, NDHQ

e-veritas: What timeframe were you DCdts/VCommandant at RMC?

Layne Larsen: I moved into the job in June 81, just a few days after graduation, and left in August 83. In those days, DCdts was also the Vice Commandant, #2 man at the College.

e-veritas: Who were the Commandants during your time?

Layne Larsen: 3173 MGen (Ret’d) John Stewart (RRMC 1953) was Commandant my first year, 3572 MGen (Ret’d) Frank Norman (RRMC RMC 1956) the second.

e-veritas: Where did you live?

Layne Larsen: I lived in Panet House. The resident who followed me was not the DCdts, but DAdm.

5300 Captain (N) (Ret’d) Bob “Tex” Thomas (RRMC 1962) who replaced me was already in the Director Administration (DAdm) slot and living in Hewett House and did not want to move.

e-veritas: What memories do you have of this time period?

Layne Larsen: I have absolutely no bad memories. I had an excellent staff that, for the most part, was the best I ever worked with during a 37 year career. I also was fortunate in having two very supportive Commandants who never interfered with my decisions and responsibilities as CO of the Cadet Wing (although they did tender helpful suggestions on occasion). There was also a very busy social life. On one week-end between 1600 Friday and 1800 Sunday, my wife and I attended 16 different events. I always put in at least an appearance at all inter-collegiate sporting events held on the week-ends, which might mean a rugby game, soccer game, fencing meet, gymnastics meet and swimming meet all in one afternoon.. As a pro forma, the cadet squadrons always invited me to their parties and I always put in an appearance, staying only long enough to show the CO’s interest, but never long enough to outwear my welcome.

I remember one humorous incident. Whenever there were trophies, awards, etc. to be handed out, the responsibility was shared among the Commandant, Principal, myself and the Cadet Wing Commander (CWC). After one event, the Commandant’s wife, Ann Norman asked me why, when the award was going to a Lady Cadet, I never air-kissed her cheek like the other three presenters. I explained that her husband and the principal were old enough that the kiss was fatherly, the CWC was in the potential boyfriend/brother age range, but I was in that awkward age bracket that would label me a “dirty old man”. However, more importantly, I was their CO and committed to treating everyone equally—and not being Russian, I was not about to start air-kissing any young men!

e-veritas: What were the biggest challenges at that time – facing the College?

Layne Larsen: Lady Cadets had been introduced in 1980 and while my predecessors had done a excellent job in preparing for their arrival, as Frederick the Great said: “No plan survives initial contact with the enemy”. There were still a number of issues that, had NDHQ allowed another year of preparation, might well have been solved. For example, the ladies were not segregated (I believe this was on the advice of West Point who had tried segregation and found it didn’t work) which meant that bathrooms had to be shared with a sign on the door that was flipped back and forth, depending upon which sex was using it. Of course, this meant that there were lots of “Oops!” events (usually pretty one-sided, as you might imagine)..

There were also a number of issues with uniforms. NDHQ had procured white ladies swim suits which, unfortunately, turned transparent when wet, so we had to let the ladies use their personal kit while we waited months for NDHQ to sort the problem. They never did, so we arranged a local purchase of a common design from the athletic budget. We also wanted something more feminine than the men’s CMC tie for the ladies to wear with the #6 dress (blazer). NDHQ Director Women Personnel came up with this ghastly design that resembled a baby’s bib and refused to compromise on the issue. We eventually were able to get approval for a scarf similar to that worn at the USAF Academy, feminine, stylish and distinctively CMC at the same time.

NDHQ also had a “pregnancy policy” that we advised them was unworkable, but they would not budge. In my second year, we encountered the problem, and showed that it was unworkable. They eventually came up with one that, while less than ideal, at least addressed the problem from a more practical viewpoint (not in time to assist the young woman involved, unfortunately).

e-veritas: As DCdt, what discipline issues stick out in your mind?

Layne Larsen: Alcohol misuse was a bit of a problem among a few cadets and I adopted a zero tolerance policy here—the first incident meant 30 days at the CFB Kingston dry-out centre. Fortunately, many of the upper-classmen kept a pretty close eye on this and let the chain of command know when there was an issue with an individual. They also let me know of a drug incident and under the DND policy at the time, any sort of internal investigation was precluded and the military police had to be involved. A third year cadet was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and a second year cadet with possession. The latter cadet opted for summary trial, was found guilty, and in accordance with policy was dismissed from the service. The “dealer” faced a mandatory courts-martial. Unfortunately, the MPs had failed to caution her before the interview and her lawyer got the trafficking charge stayed and she was found guilty only of simple possession, and the punishment was the mandatory dismissal. However, for unknown reasons, the NDHQ reviewing officer overturned the verdict and she was allowed to remain in the college—to the universal disgust of the cadet wing.

The more insidious issue was resentment of the lady cadets, as exemplified by the class of 83’s sobriquet “Last class with balls!”. As with other policies, we attempted to make that of harassment gender neutral/zero tolerance and I believe we did so quite successfully—although the issue was always simmering just below the surface. There was also a bit of resentment among the ladies themselves. In 1980/81 there was a media frenzy regarding the introduction of women and the (mostly) male photographers/reporters, invariably concentrated on the more attractive members of the group. The rest of the women who were usually pushed into the background, dubbed themselves “the chopped liver row”.

I also had a case of the CWC becoming involved in an inappropriate relationship with a first year cadet. In this case, the Commandant’s action (for disciplinary purposes, the CWC did not fall under DCdts) was to allow him to resign—in public in the cadets’ dining hall during meal announcements.

With myself, the Commandant, and most of my staff (SOs, Squadcoms, Chaplains, CSM) all living on the grounds, we were able to keep a pretty close eye on cadet activities and nothing much went on that we did not find out about sooner or later. I toured all four dormitories every night—in uniform–on a random schedule any time between 2200 and 0300. This was largely in response to complaints from the academic wing that cadets were being kept up at night, sacrosanct study periods being disrupted, etc. Unfortunately, some cadets will lie about reasons for not completing their homework, because they know many of the civilian professors would believe it. I never found any evidence of such activities, although it would be naïve to believe that they never occurred.

e-veritas: Any memorable skylarks?

Layne Larsen: None memorable—just the usual moving some cadet’s entire dorm room onto the parade square overnight, stringing toilet paper all around the porch pillars of Panet House, etc.

e-veritas: What were the biggest changes at that time at RMC?

Layne Larsen: When I had been interviewed for the job by BGen Stewart, he had indicated that he was not happy with the status of things at the College and he wanted to “…put the M(ilitary) back in RMC”. In terms of privileges (leave, dress, etc) there was little to differentiate between a first and fourth year cadet. So, with the Commandant’s concurrence, I and my staff significantly amended Cadet Wing Instructions (CADWINs) over the summer to institute a graduated system of privileges by year (the old Rank Has Its Privilege (RHIP), made uniform mandatory for “walking out) for all except 4th year, and did what we could to enhance 4th year authority and responsibility within the cadet wing to further distance them from the other years, etc, etc.

Otherwise, there were no changes to the “system” under which the CMC’s operated.

e-veritas: What did you do in the CAF after this time?

Layne Larsen:

Sep83-Aug88 Back to DSTI, this time as Deputy Director for Technical Intelligence

Sep 88-Oct91 Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe as Section Chief-Command and Control Requirements Analysis (peace position) and Information System Manager (in the bunker, wartime position) Promoted Col

Nov91-May94 Director, Military Manpower Distribution, NDHQ

e-veritas: As an artist, your have rendered architectural commissions of the Memorial Arch and most of the older buildings at the Royal Military College.

Layne Larsen: Upon retirement, I decided to turn my long time hobby as an artist into a full time business, Larsen Custom Art & Framing in Kingston. (larsenart.com) I have paintings in public and private collections in—at last count—33 countries around the world.

• ‘Rideout Row – RMC’, – was donated to Royal Military College in honour of the 100th Anniversary of the construction of Rideout Row. Ink on chamois paper. Image Size: 10×8 inches. www.larsenart.com/Galleries/RideoutRow.htm

• ‘Canadian Defence Academy’ – oversees higher education in the Canadian Forces. This building incorporates the former Rideout Row at Royal Military College and was commissioned as a retirement gift for the RMC Principal, Dr. J. S. Cowan India. – ink and brush on Linetek 3000 illustration board 13×11 inches www.larsenart.com/Galleries/CanadianDefenceAcademy.htm

• ‘Yeo Hall at Royal Military College’ – used as a cadet dining room, chapels and lounge -Ink on chamois paper 10×8 inches www.larsenart.com/Galleries/YeoHall.htm

• ‘Just Passing By’ – When RMC graduates in the pilot classification are passing by, the result is often a short, impromptu airshow. This painting depicts Canadian astronaut, Col (then Maj) Chris Hadfield in the cockpit of a CF-188/Hornet performing a low pass over RMC and Fort Henry. – acrylic glaze on illustration board 25×18 inches www.larsenart.com/Galleries/JustPassingBy.htm

e-veritas: What are you doing these days?

Layne Larsen: I also do a lot of volunteer work with charitable/not for profit organizations and am currently Chair of the Board of the Historic 1000 Islands Village Foundation (1000islandsheritagemuseum.com). I am President of one artists’ organization, Treasurer (and Past Pres) of another, and edit the Journal of the Canadian Aviation Artists’ Association www.aviationartists.ca. From 1985 until last year I was a regular columnist for Canadian Stamp News (canadianstampnews.ca), a weekly philatelic newspaper; now I just do an occasional guest column.

e-veritas: Are you in touch with what is happening at the college these days? If yes, what are your views?

Layne Larsen: I am a Life member of the RMC Club, but rarely attend local Branch events. My main source of news about the College is e-Veritas and, of course, the fact that I live in Kingston.

Until perhaps 20 years ago, the College was all about the Cadets; I think this is no longer true. The DCdts’ status has dropped to what? 4th? in the College hierarchy and along with it the status of the Military Wing.

I think it was a major mistake to shift all the Military Wing staff off the grounds as a consequence of establishing the Canadian Defence Academy (CDA), which has also had the effect of turning the grounds, except for the sports fields, into one massive parking lot. With hundreds of acres of land at CFB Kingston there was no need to cram it into an already tight space.

I was also appalled when the cadets were put into “paint by number suits” in preference to distinctive CMC uniforms for other than formal dress. Getting rid of the CMC #6 dress (a budget issue, I understand) was also a retrograde step. The group photos in civilian clothes and mix-and-match personal athletic gear that frequently appear in e-Veritas make me cringe.

A few months ago, I was visiting the Staples store at Bagot and Queen and there, leaning against a light standard was a third year cadet, in uniform, back pack over one shoulder, a lit cigarette in the other. When I calmly suggested that he was not presenting a very good image of the College, he suggested that I commit an anatomically impossible act. While this is the worst incident—and I presume a very rare one– I have not been impressed by the public image cadets present in the city.

 

 Click here for previous interviews with former DCdts