Wise Squadron Commander passes on career lasting tip


Article by 26559 Lt Alexander Landry (photo top right)

Alexander Landry

In the first semester of my fourth year at RMC, my Squadron Commander (SC) at the time, Captain Nicholas Payne (photo top left), taught me various lessons on topics such as leadership, command, and simply how to live a good & altruist life in itself. Having been under command of four SCs in four years, I experienced many different styles of leadership. Little did I know it would be the lessons in fourth year, specifically the ones that come from the book I am about to present, that would stick with me even to this day while deployed on operations overseas.

As Mackenzie Squadron’s newest Cadet Squadron Training Officer, Capt Payne and I spoke early in the year with regards to discipline & corrective measures within the squadron, including how they should be imposed. Already having made use of and being subjected to the disciplinary tools of the time such as 4s and Gaitors (now called Breach) as well as supplementary inspections or academic detentions, I was quite familiar with the system in place. However, Capt Payne would introduce me to different styles of discipline and training, pieces he believed had deeper meaning and further provided value to correct deficiencies or help individuals understand their shortcomings.

When our first significant incident did occur, he instructed me to assign reading of Brace E. Barber’s No Excuse Leadership: Lessons from the US Army’s Elite Rangers to the individual. It occurred to me that I had not read the text myself, and that I probably shouldn’t impose readings on someone I did not understand myself. Thus, the weekend prior to issuing the measures, I read the book cover to cover to ensure I knew what I was about to assign.

A graduate of the United States Military Academy, Barber is a tabbed Ranger and now president of two national tax consulting firms. What he offers in this text are lessons from his Ranger days that go beyond military leadership, extending to being a good manager or serviceable citizen. Through anecdotes from his experiences and those of other Rangers, he outlies the basic qualities of leaders such as persistence, honesty, and selflessness. Without giving too much of the book away (as I encourage all readers to give it a glimpse!), I came to understand why this book would be of value for assigned readings – the qualities outlined were almost exactly the ones we expect of CAF officers today, similar to the ones we see preached & presented in e-Veritas articles week after week!

Understanding now my commander’s intent for this assignment, I issued it to the individual and asked that they identify which of the outlined qualities they had lacked in. As follow-up, we required the member to provide a plan as to how they would rectify their shortcoming and meet the standard expected of them by the institution. Needless to say, this individual did end up returning to the standard. Unfortunately, they also ended up leaving the military shortly thereafter.

Almost a year later, I graduated and was commissioned in May of 2016. Having now long forgotten most of the minor incidents that may have occurred in the semester prior (among many other tidbits of information I deleted in favour of thesis material), I was surprised when I was approached on the other side of the Arch by the individual in question. Although he was now out of the military, he did want to offer congratulations to me. It was also in this moment he told me that he had purchased his own copy of the text and that, although he had left the Forces, felt the principles still applied and was glad to now have them as part of his life.

Two years later, as I find myself working now overseas for the time being. These principles are still among the ones I apply in every report I submit or orders set I draft. I was recently reminded of this occurrence when I found Capt Payne’s copy of the book among my packed reading material (sorry sir!). Coincidentally, they reminded me of e-Veritas articles by senior leaders, and I thought I might share the knowledge of this text as I truly believe the principles apply to me even today, as a Troop Commander of soldiers with the Royal Canadian Engineer Corps. I’ve assigned this book as reading for my troops before, and will definitely make use of it for future professional development sessions.

Sometimes, to correct deficiencies you need to think outside the box and look to provide real value in your assigned measures. I’m glad Capt Payne thought so back in 4th Year, and I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to help someone in a different way. I recommend the text to all leaders, particularly cadets at RMC, as it will only reinforce the values and beliefs we share in the profession of arms. Just don’t go asking Capt Payne for his copy!


  • Vince Wawryk, COS RMC

    June 11, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Bravo to both you and Capt Payne for the imagination.
    Rather than resort to admin measures for a subordinate who had committed foolishness, I once did the same thing – demanding a short paper on the individual’s shortcomings using reference to the CAF’s Leadership manuals.
    I like the idea of going further afield and making reference to Comd RCAF/CA/RCN reading lists or other PD guidance, as you did.
    Well done you too for having read the text yourself before issuing the PD. Very professional.
    Thanks for the article.