Squadron Commanders: In Their Own Words

Over the next few editions it is our intent to run articles on the Squadron Commanders from Royal Military College of Canada.  All of them contribute a great deal to RMC, in general and to the cadets in their Squadron, in particular.

22027 Lieutenant (N) Anthony “Tony” Lefresne: 3 Squadron

Lieutenant (N) Anthony Marcelle Lefresne, from Fort McMurray (Alberta), graduated from RMC in 2001 with a degree in Military and Strategic Studies and has been 3 Squadron Commander (Pontiac) at RMC since August 2007.

He has been in the Canadian Forces for over 11 years, and is a Maritime Surface Sub-Surface Officer (MARS) with the Navy. The primary function of MARS officers is to be a part of the crew of the seagoing combatant units of Maritime Command. They are responsible for the command, coordination and control of Military Maritime Operations.

Lieutenant (N) Lefresne thoroughly enjoys his position as a Squadron Commander. He takes his leadership role seriously and takes every opportunity to share his experience with cadets and give them the opportunity to develop as leaders. His greatest reward, in his own words: “Watching an OCdt take charge of a situation or project and surpassing the expectations that were placed on them. More often than not I receive solutions rather than problems.”

When asked what the most difficult part of his job is: “Trying to keep pace with a bunch of overly energetic 18-22 year olds during sporting events!”

The cadets’ welfare and development stand out as his top priorities as a Squadron Commander. The Squadron Commander’s position requires a lot of administrative work, but he makes sure that he is out there with the cadets rather than constantly behind his desk. In his own words: ” I would like to be remembered as a Sqn Comd who genuinely took an interest in the well being of the OCdts and was always available to them when needed.”

Asked to provide an anecdote from his time as a Squadron Commander: “The 07/08 academic year, which was my first year as a Sqn Comd, also turned out to be my first year as a father. During FYOP and Reunion weekend the Sqn was entertained by my reaction to when my cell phone would go off only to discover that my wife had not gone into labour, but that AT&T had texted me to let me know that I was now in their service area and that roaming charges would apply. (A quirk of the Rogers wireless network, which only occurs on the RMC peninsula, that continues to annoy me to this day). I canvassed the Sqn for baby names, but I have yet to find out who suggested the name Chlamydia for a girl. Thankfully we had a little boy (Aaron Nathaniel) over Thanksgiving weekend. One of the FYOP section commanders came into my office with a couple of First Years from Grizzly Flight bearing gifts. They had an outfit for Aaron which consisted of appropriate Grizzly Bear pants and top. They gave us a gigantic custom made card, in Squadron colours of course, with well wishes from all members of the flight. But to top it off, we were given a 3 foot tall Grizzly teddy bear sporting a Grizzly Flight Sqn T-Shirt, also custom made. That was 15 months ago and although the outfit has been outgrown, the card remains in his room, the T-shirt now fits like a hockey jersey, and the bear is a favourite toy that Aaron loves to wrestle with even though it still has about 6 inches on him.”

He came to RMC from Halifax, where he served as Bridge Watch Keeper on HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the bridge as 2OOW and OOW. Participating in the 60th Anniversary of D-Day was also an amazing experience during that posting.”

While he enjoys his role as a Squadron Commander, he is itching to regain his sea legs. He looks forward to going back to operational status and “would like to successfully complete the Operations Room Officer (ORO) Course and subsequent sea tour as an ORO on the East Coast. After that I am very interested in spending some time at NDHQ.”

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22833 Captain Jennifer Lynn Hutter: 7 Squadron

Captain Jennifer Hutter, from Sudbury (Ontario), graduated from RMC in 2004 with a degree in Computer Engineering. She has come back to RMC as a Squadron Commander for 7 Squadron (Wolfe), a position she has held since August 2007.

She has been in the Canadian Forces for over 8 years, and is an Aerospace Engineering Officer by trade. Aerospace Engineering officers are responsible for all aspects of the engineering, maintenance and management of military aircraft (Air Force, Army or Navy) and all of their support equipment and facilities during military operations, in peacetime or at war.

When asked what she likes most about being a Squadron Commander at RMC: “The energy and enthusiasm of the OCdts. There’s always great ideas coming up from within the Sqn, and Wolfe really pulls together to make them work. For example, the morning of the Sports Day this fall, the bar slate unveiled a new Sqn flag. I arrived for the presentation expecting to see a quick form up and short speech. Instead, the CSL had arranged for ‘epic’ music playing in the background. He gave a very formal and poetic speech celebrating the Sqn. The flag was then formally marched in by the Colour Party, lead by a picture of wolves from the Sqn lines, and with fireworks going off in the background. It really set the tone for the rest of the day.”

She remembers what kind of an impact her Squadron Commanders had on her when she came through RMC, and strives to ensure that she gives cadets the tools needed to be good officers when they graduate. Asked how she would like to be remembered by cadets: “I’d like them to remember me as mentor, teaching them responsibility and encouraging them to develop and explore their leadership while they were at the College.”
Captain Hutter concedes that the Squadron Commander position can be challenging at times. When asked what she considers the toughest part of he role as a Squadron Commander: “Making the connections between the different aspects of the College. The cadets spend a great deal of time with different departments, all of which have their own policies to apply. The Squad Coms need to be able to make the link between them.”

She was posted to DAEPM(FT) right out of RMC: “It was my first posting after finishing AOBC (my only posting prior to returning to RMC as a Sqn Comd), and I learned a great deal about how the aircraft maintenance community operates.” She is enjoying her second “stay” at RMC, and is taking this opportunity to gain experience and fine tune her own leadership style. As a young officer with many years left in front of her, where does she plan to go next? “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work in Aircraft Maintenance Ops at a Wing, hopefully within the CF-18 community.”

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22562 Captain Megan Cromarty: 9 Squadron

Captain Megan Cromarty, from Calgary and Edmonton (Alberta), graduated from RMC in 2003 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She was very active during her time at RMC, and it was said that what she had “achieved while at RMC would exhaust the average person trying to follow in her footsteps”. She was a member of the Stone Frigate in 1st and 2nd year and was part of 7 Squadron and the Wing HQ in 3rd and 4th year.

She came back to RMC as 9 Squadron Commander (Verchères) in July ’07.

Joining in 1999 at the age of 18, she has been in the Canadian Forces for just under a decade. Contrary to many cadets at RMC, she did not know anyone in the military before joining: “I entered the military not having any clue what I was getting into, but was up for the challenge. One of the most memorable moments for me was when my Platoon WO on BOTC told me ‘you don’t have a military bone in your body’. Although it didn’t seem funny to me at the time, I’m sure my expression was priceless.”

She is an Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME) Officer by trade. EME officers are responsible for the maintenance and engineering support of all Army equipment, and of the land-based equipment of the Navy and Air Force. They lead the soldier technicians who keep CF equipment in top condition, and work in every equipment life-cycle phase, from design, evaluation and acquisition through in-service support to eventual disposal.

What does she like most about being a Squadron Commander? “The interaction with the OCdts is definitely the best part. Everyone is so unique and it’s great learning about them especially in an atmosphere where it can be difficult to show your personality. Each day is completely different making the job challenging and there is never a dull moment.”

Asked what the most difficult part of her job is: “There are so many challenges to being a Sqn Comd that it is difficult to know where to begin. The main challenge is not having enough time in the day to be able to interact with all the Officer Cadets in the Squadron as much as I would like to. Due to the fact that there never seems to be enough time in a day, the amount of OCdts that we work with, and the substantial amount of administration that is required, it becomes difficult to meet all your goals.” Despite the lack of time to interact with cadets on any given day, she “would like to be remembered as being a Squadron Commander who was supportive and understanding of the daily lives of the OCdts.”

“My favourite posting before arriving to RMC was when I was at 4 Wing Cold Lake in Alberta. Being from a larger city, the lifestyle of Cold Lake was not what I had expected but I was able to adapt to the small community. My most memorable position was as the Workshop Support Office at EME Squadron. I spent the first few months working on the floor with the various technical trades and gained an understanding of the challenges they face on a daily basis. It was also through this initial position that I went through many embarrassing (but funny) moments as a Junior Officer. Being one of the youngest personnel in the shop was one of my greatest challenges but I developed a great working relationship with the MWO of the shop who was a great mentor and a positive influence in my learning curve.”

Dedicated to the Canadian Forces, she has no plans to return to civilian life: “I would like to pursue my career in the CF further and make it a lifetime career. The CF has so many opportunities and has provided me with many memorable experiences (both good and bad). Ottawa will be inevitable in the foreseeable future and I would like to go on another tour within the next couple of years.”

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Lieutenant (N) Greg Walker: 10 Squadron

Lieutenant (N) Greg Walker, from Saskatoon, has been in the Canadian Forces for over 18 years. He has been the Squadron Commander for 10 Squadron (Montcalm) since July 2007.

He is a Naval Combat Systems Engineer by trade. An integral part of the Navy team, the Naval Combat Systems Engineer is specifically responsible for the readiness, operation and maintenance of Naval Weapon Systems and their ammunition, Navigation Systems, Communication Systems, Above Water and Underwater Sensor Systems, Command and Control Systems, Data Processing Systems, Electronic Warfare Systems, and the integration of these systems into a full naval combat suite.

When asked what he liked most about being a Squadron Commander: “Making a difference”. He believes that being available for and assisting cadets are essential elements in being a good Squadron Commander. He hopes to be remembered by cadets “as the person who was there to help them when they needed it the most”.

Lieutenant (N) Walker freely admits that, as with any other leadership position, there are challenges to overcome. He considers “finding the balance between what is best for the member and what is best for the CF” his greatest challenge as a Squadron Commander at RMC.

His mission at RMC involves forming and helping create officers and leaders for the Canadian Forces. Asked to provide an anecdote about his time at RMC, he could not help but reflect on the fact that some people don’t have “the right stuff” to be at RMC: “I love my job because I approach the work knowing I work for the OCdts, not the other way around. They are the end product and it is my job to get them through the arch. Of course, for some of them that walk off the peninsula does not happen on graduation day. Yes, sadly it is true, there are those few who just do not belong at RMC, or in the military. I knew this to be the case for a few individuals when I first arrived at RMC last year. It is easy to spot these individuals and it is fairly easy to gather the required documentation to relieve them of the burden of employment. These are the few who are quick to provide the prerequisite justification for removal from the RMC program. Well, one of these fine fellows provided me with a real belly laugh last year. This guy had decided that he was entitled to his paycheque but should not be troubled with such things as mandatory class attendance. And why write that assigned paper when the internet will provide an abundance of prepared work. By the time I took over as divisional officer it was like “Cheech and Chong go to College” and I had to move quickly to assist this fellow in finding his true calling, elsewhere. Of course, the wheels of bureaucracy can move slowly in the release process, so one of the things we offered this person was the “leave without pay” or LWOP option. This allowed the member to return to his home town and start preparing for his civilian life. The member then flew back to Kingston for three or four days to do the final out routine and I did my traditional walk off campus and said goodbye. Normally that would be where the story ends, but then a few months later I got a call from the JAG. Apparently this fellow had a change of heart and was not too happy with his newfound lack of employment. He contacted the JAG asking for their legal assistance to prepare a suit against RMC, and me personally as his Squadron Commander. His complaint?? We had not explained to him that, as part of his release, he would no longer be receiving a paycheque.”

Asked what his favourite posting was before arriving to RMC: “Staff Officer to Chief of Staff in MARLANT HQ. I was put on all sorts of projects where the results were important.”

He is undecided as to where he would like to go after RMC.

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Lieutenant (N) Gary Russell Jackson: Otter Squadron

Lieutenant (N) Gary Jackson , from Trenton (Ontario), has been working as Otter Squadron Commander at RMC since August 2007.

He has been in the Canadian Forces for over 17 years, and is a Maritime Surface Sub-Surface Officer (MARS) with the Navy. The primary function of MARS officers is to be a part of the crew of the seagoing combatant units of Maritime Command. They are responsible for the command, coordination and control of Military Maritime Operations.

While his responsibilities are similar to that of the other Squadron Commanders, his position differs in that he is in charge of UTPNCM (University Training Plan Non Commissioned Members) cadets; individuals who have extensive prior service in the regular force as NCMs. This particularity brings on a different set of challenges and he describes “dealing with the complex family issues faced by a large number of Otter Sqn members” as the toughest part of his job as Otter Squadron Commander.

Despite the specific difficulties of his position, he considers “working with the members of Otter Squadron” to be the most rewarding aspect of his job as a Squadron Commander.

A down to earth kind of guy, he would like to be remembered by cadets “as part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

When asked what was his favorite posting prior to arriving at RMC: “Canadian Forces Joint Headquarters for several reasons: very high op tempo; working in a joint and combined element affording me the opportunity to learn more about other CF trades and other nations armed forces; and the fact that the ratio of ops (very high) to exercises (very low) was favorable.”

Although uncertain what he will be doing after his time at RMC, he “would like to stay in the Kingston area”.

2 Comments

  • 6137 Wyn van der Schee

    February 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I have a particular bugbear with respect to the way in which officers’ classifications are referred to as “trades” in the vernacular at RMC. I was reminded of this prejudice when I read Captain Megan Cromarty’s bio in which she is referred to as an EME officer by trade. C’mon people! Soldiers (NCMs in to-day’s parlance) have trades such as vehicle mechanic or weapons technician; officers have classifications or military occupations. Surely it does no justice to the status of an officer with a university degree to refer to him or her having a “trade.”

  • SlightedCorporal

    February 6, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I would just like to point out, in this instance, that the expression “by trade” does not refer to EME as a trade but rather as the fact that the profession or occupation of Capt. Cromarty is that of EME. It is a popular expression that has been applied to professions (he’s an engineer by trade) as well as trades (he’s a plumber by trade), although no one disputes that engineering is a profession where plumbing is a trade.

    Where I take offense, not on my behalf mind you but on that of excellent individuals under which I have had the pleasure of serving, is the concept of “status of an officer with a university degree”. I have served under many officers who did not hold a degree (CFRs or those who joined before mandatory degrees) who were just as professional, and in some cases even more, than those with a university degree. I would argue that the “status” granted by certain degrees is, or at least ought to be, no more deserving of said “status” than many trades. I would contend that holding an engineering or medical degree confers a “higher” status over that of say a weapons technician. I would also contend that an individual holding a 3 year BA in modern dance or music probably shouldn’t have a “higher” status than that of a Journeyman trades person only by virtue of his degree. A DEO officer with a music “degree” has a particular status by virtue of his being a professional soldier, but I don’t think many would ascribe him his “status” by virtue of his degree. The quality of being a professional officer grants a certain status, but holding a degree does not necessarily grant “higher” status.