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.

In no special order and the first four in a series:

22702 Captain Nathan Caley Price: 1 Squadron

Captain Price has been 1 Squadron Commander (Hudson), Military Wing at RMC in Kingston since July 2008. His wife 22558 Captain Sandra Kathleen Price (nee Reibin) (RMC 2003) is 5 Squadron Commander.

As a 1st and 2nd year Officer Cadet, he was a member of 4 Squadron at RMC. In 3rd and 4th year, he was a member of 3 Squadron where he served as a Section Commander and Sports Representative. He stayed fit by playing volleyball and soccer, and to this day: “I remain a fan of volley ball and soccer at RMC.” He earned a degree in science at RMC.

He has served in the Canadian Forces for 9 years. As a combat engineer, he is a member of the Military Engineer branch of the Canadian Forces. Combat engineers ensure that friendly troops can live, move and fight on the battlefield, and deny the same abilities to enemy troops. He served at 1 CER in Edmonton for four years and returned to RMC as 1 Squadron Commander in July 2008.

When asked about the toughest part of the job: “Passing on the experience I’ve gained and preparing Cadets for life in the military. One of the best parts about being a Squadron Commander is getting feedback from the Cadets in which you have made a difference. We had just underwent a change of Cadet Squadron Leaders and when I saw the first semester Cadet Squadron Leader in the hallway just after Christmas he said, ‘Sir I think I’m going through withdrawals, I kind of miss my Capt Price time’, that made my week.” His thoughts on the toughest part of the job: “Putting in the time and effort but not having anyone know the full scope of what you do. I was a cadet 5 years ago, I didn’t think my Sqn Comd did anything.”

Fond of his experience with a Cadet Squadron, he had this anecdote to share: “When the Director Cadets did his inspection of our Squadron lines, he asked a cadet to tell who is the current Chief of the Air Staff. The cadet quickly and confidently responded – ‘LGen W.A. Watt’. The DCdts then turned around to the cadet one foot away on the other side of the hallway and asked him who is the current Chief of the Land Staff . This cadet replied with – ‘I don’t know, I’m Air Force.’ The DCdts and without missing a beat, ‘Fine, who is the Chief of the Air Staff?’ The cadet didn’t have a clue. At first I couldn’t believe that the cadet couldn’t repeat what was just said 30 seconds previously.”

Reflecting on his time as a leader in the Canadian Forces: “Being back at RMC and seeing cadets get extremely flustered in the presence of the Director Cadets and the Commandant reminds me personally of how much I’ve developed in 5 years. It reminds me to think about what is going on in the head of the cadet on the other side of the desk. I’m happy to be back at RMC, I’m sure this experience will help me back at the Regiment understand why the 17/18 year old Sappers do the things that they do.”

How he would like to be remembered by cadets? “I want to be remembered as the example of what to do. I don’t want to be remembered as the example of what not to do.”

Captain Price’s preferred posting before RMC was with the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment (1 CER), the Operational Military Engineer Unit supporting 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. “I had a really good time during my four years at 1 CER. I enjoyed the experiences, Regimental functions, and the family atmosphere of the Regiment.”

Following his tour of duty at RMC Captain Price looks forward to a Canadian Forces Joint Head Quarters posting: “I hope to deploy in a Joint Headquarters position.” [The CFJHQ forms the deployable element of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) Headquarters based in Ottawa. The CFJHQ, which is a lodger unit of CFB Kingston, provides the Commander of CEFCOM with a joint high-readiness rapidly deployable operational-level integrated command-and-control capability for assigned tasks in order to achieve CF stated military objectives.]

__________________________________________________________________________________________

19426 Captain Lee Wendland: 4 Squadron

Captain Wendland graduated from Engineering Physics in 1994 and was a key member of the varsity basketball team for four years. He acted as team Captain for the 1993/4 season.

He comes from a small town out west called Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Lee joined the military at 17 years of age because he wanted to get out of Gull Lake and see the world. Since his early teens he had always wanted to be a pilot. “The scary thing was that my first time really out of the small town atmosphere was aircrew selection in Toronto and I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into. Well, keeping things short, I did not make pilot but accepted Air Navigator (now Airborne Combat Systems Officer) and have enjoyed my almost 19 years of military service ever since.”

Lee was posted to RMC in 2003 and completed a Masters Degree in Chemical and Materials Engineering specializing in Non-Destructive Testing. He then lectured in the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Department. He was supposed to remain on in this capacity until APS (active posting season) 2009 but one day last Spring during a pick-up basketball game one of the Sqn Comd said to him “welcome to the ‘dark-side’ – you are on our new org chart as the 6 Sqn Comd”. “Well, that was the first I’d heard of anything so I started investigating and two or three days later I got a message from the Commandant’s EA stating that I was being considered for a Sqn Comd position and that the Commandant would like to interview me.”

Lee switched offices in July 2008 to become 4 Squadron Commander – rejoining his Alma Mater!
“What I like most about being a Squadron Commander is working with the Cadets. It is interesting to watch their personalities develop as they mature during their time here and knowing that I had some influence in shaping them. The toughest part of the Squadron Commander position is the bureaucracy.”

When asked to share some anecdotes or funny stories: …”there are always things going on here at the college but either I am missing them going on in my squadron or else I’ve been lucky or unfortunate depending on how you look at it.” Between being a squadron commander and lecturing for Chem/Chem Eng, Captain Wendland is an assistant coach with the (W) varsity basketball team; he certainly doesn’t have a lot of free time. “One thing I will say – when I started lecturing again this term the groan was audible when I walked into class and the cadets realized who I was. They definitely knew that I would notice any absences and that I have a direct line to their squadron commanders.” There is no pulling the wool over his eyes in the academic or athletic components here!

When asked on how he would like to be remembered by cadets. “It is difficult for me to answer what would I like to be remembered by cadets. You always remember those who stand out for doing something great or screwing-up. I would really like not to be remembered for the latter.”

Lee arrived at RMC from Cold Lake. “My best posting prior to arriving at RMC has to be the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE), Cold Lake, AB as a Flight Test Navigator. It was a very exciting and demanding job. I loved the flying and the challenge of flight test work. It was also great being out West. As an outdoorsman, I loved being in Big Sky Country and when I wasn’t working I was taking advantage of all the opportunities Alberta had to offer.”

Lee is currently mulling over what he would like to do following his tour of duty at RMC. He has enjoyed the military but he is not so interested in moving again. “I am considering a number of options at this point. First I would like to complete my PhD and get back into a teaching position with a University or College. Second, I would love to get a job as a full time basketball coach. Thirdly – become a reservist and find a good position in the Kingston geographic area. Lastly, which is most appealing but least likely, I could win the lottery and retire to do whatever I feel like doing.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________

22558 Captain Sandra Kathleen Price: 5 Squadron

Captain Sandra Kathleen Price (nee Reibin) graduated from RMC in 2003 and has been 5 Squadron Commander (Brock), Military Wing, at RMC in Kingston since July 2008.

As an Officer Cadet, she was a member of 4 Squadron at RMC for 2 years, followed by a 2 year stint with 6 Squadron. In her final year, she served as Aide de Camp and lived in Wing HQ. Her husband, 22702 Captain Nathan Price (RMC 2003), is the Squadron Commander of the Stone Frigate.

She is an Aerospace Control Officer – specifically Instrument Flight Rules Controller – Air Traffic Control MOSID 00184. IFR air traffic controllers coordinate the safe, efficient and orderly flow of air traffic in a Flight Information Region. Using radar and advanced flight data management systems, IFR air traffic controllers track all flights within your sector, give pilots en route instructions, give terminal clearances at certain airports and hand off the plane to your colleague in the next centre, or at an air traffic control tower.

She returned to RMC as 5 Squadron Commander in July 2008.

“What I like most about being a Squadron Commander is the interaction with the Officer Cadets. You forget what it is like here after you graduate and move on. Coming back to interact with the cadets who have a lot of energy is very rewarding. Seeing a few of them overcome obstacles and succeed is also a great thing.” When asked to share the toughest part of the job: “Managing the few problem cases can take up a lot of time. We have so many things we want to do for the Squadron and our to-do list just grows and grows. The tough part comes when a few critical issues or discipline problems arise and we manage as best we can but it can get very busy at times.”

When asked to share some anecdotes: “Although I have been a CF member for almost 10 years, my history with the Military Colleges extends much further. I was christened at Royal Roads Military College since my father Chief Warrant Officer (ret`d) Don Reibin served at the time as Drill Sergeant Major at RRMC. My sister 23234 Captain Heather M Reibin (RMC 2005) and I both opted to attend RMC after completing high school in Ottawa.”

When asked how she would like to be remembered by cadets: “As being fair but also consistent. I also try to emphasize what they need to learn for their careers past the College so I hope it helps them out in the long run.”

Captain Price arrived at RMC from Cold Lake. “My only operational posting prior to this was working as an IFR Air Traffic Controller at 4 Wing Cold Lake for 3 years. I really enjoy the trade and working with the F18s is a high-paced environment so I had a really good time. I took part in several NATO Tactical-Evaluation exercises that were testing the deployability of the F18s and it was a great experience to see all aspects of the Air Force come together with the aim of getting the aircraft overseas.”

Following her tour of duty at RMC, Captain Price looks forward to an operational posting. “I hope to go back to an Operational Unit and spend more time controlling and try to get some overseas experience. I’d love an out-Can posting at some point if it’s possible.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________

22544 Captain Jean-Victor Lavoie: 6 Squadron

Captain Jean-Victor Lavoie (CMR RMC 2003) has served as 6 Squadron Commander (Brant) at RMC in Kingston since June 08. He arrived back at RMC after a 10 month tour in Afghanistan.

He comes from Chicoutimi, one of the three boroughs of Saguenay, Québec located 225 kilometres north of Quebec City. He joined the Canadian Forces in June 1998. “I joined the CF for the adventure”. His is an infantry officer whose unit affiliation is Le Royal 22e Régiment, the most famous francophone organization of the Canadian Forces. The infantry regiment is nicknamed the Van Doos, a corruption of vingt-deux, French for “twenty-two.”

Reflecting on his time at RMC, he lived in the pre-renovation Fort Haldimand at RMC with Brock Squadron. At the time, Fort Haldimand was known as a very noisy dorm. “In the morning, we were woken by loud music, usually `Crazy Train` by Ozzy Osbourne.” Capt Lavoie made some great friends at RMC, “I keep contact with and talk regularly with my friend 22590 Captain Christophe Lawrence Guilbaud-Mcharg (RMC 2003), an infantry officer.” In second year, Fort Haldimand was closed for much needed renovations. “Sound and light would come in to my room in Haldimand from around a big hole in the closet. There were humidity and air quality problems from the pool in the basement.” He moved to Fort Sauve, which was then a brand new, very nice dorm. In 3rd-4th year, he lived in Fort LaSalle with 4 Squadron (Frontenac). At RMC, he studied business administration and he stayed fit by playing a lot of ultimate frisbee and soccer.

When asked what he likes most about being a Squad Commander “I like to mentor the Officer Cadets and to see them learning. As a graduate of RMC, I remember my life at the college. I can relate to cadets and understand how a cadet thinks and feels.” “The toughest part of being a Squad Com is to understand how crucial that position is for the development and the progression of an Officer Cadet. Since the Officer Cadets see you every day, you become their role model of a leader and officer in the Canadian Forces.”

Asked how he would like to be remembered by cadets: “I would like to be remembered as someone who is hardworking, fair, and ethical. I hope to be remembered as a good role model and mentor for the cadets.”

His favorite posting prior to arriving at RMC was as an infantry platoon commander in a battle group, assisted by a Platoon Warrant with three eight-to-ten-person sections and a heavy weapons detachment which deploys a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, and/or 60 mm mortar depending on mission requirements. “Prior to my posting to RMC, my favourite posting was as an Infantry platoon commander. The best part of the job was leading the troops on a daily basis. I dealt with people about real life situations and I had a very important task to accomplish.”

What would he like to do following his time at RMC? “Since I joined the Canadian Forces for the adventure, the choice is not very hard. I would like to return to the battalion and be deployed again as an infantry officer in a battle group or with the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT).”