By Richard Lawrence
On the front grounds of Parliament Hill, the regular Changing of the Guard ceremony was co-opted by the Canadian Army as they carried out their Change of Command (CoC) Ceremony which would see LGen. Paul Wynnyk step away from the position of Commander of the Canadian Army and LGen. Jean-Marc Lanthier take over command. The day, the 16th July, 2018, started warm and only got warmer as the ceremony started just before 1000 hrs on one of the hottest days of the year (32 degrees, 39 with humidity) and in full sun. But considering that the last Army CoC took place in the rain in this very same spot, perhaps it was an improvement.
Speakers included the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, who reminisced about his time under the command of LGen. Wynnyk and how he gave him rein to learn. He also stated that he knows LGen. Lanthier will follow in the very same remarkable footsteps as LGen. Wynnyk during his tenure as Commander.
Gen. Vance, CDS, then led the reviewing party which consisted of himself, LGen. Wynnyk, LGen. Lanthier, Army CWO, CWO Alain Guimond (who is now moving the become CAF CWO), and incoming Army CWO, CWO Stuart Hartnell. After the review of the Governor-General’s Foot Guards and Band on parade, LGen. Wynnyk took the podium to address the crowd of a couple of thousand people. He lamented on a personal note that, “I cannot help but reflect that my very first job in the army was to deter against a threat that emanated from Moscow and my last job in the army was focused on preparing our soldiers, deploying in Ukraine and Latvia, to do the very same some three decades later.”. He also took the time to thank his wife to whom he had promised to retire after this posting of Commander of the Army. It was with her blessing that he will continue his career as Acting/Vice Chief of Defence Staff.
After this address, LGen. Wynnyk was presented with this car pennant, framed, by his driver, Cpl. Hayes. And then the big moment had arrived for the signing of the documents to effect the transfer of command. A table and chairs were brought out and the LGen. Wynnyk, Gen. Vance, and LGen. Lanthier quickly signed the papers followed by congratulatory handshakes all round.
Gen. Vance next took the podium and thanked LGen. Wynnyk for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian People, and Indigenous Peoples, and also took the time to welcome LGen. Lanthier to the position as well as his family.
LGen. Lanthier, in his turn at the podium, made a promise to all that, “I will give you my best and my all, at all times, under all circumstances. I promise to put service before self as I lead the Canadian Army, an institution comprised of the best that Canada has to offer, so that the Canadian Army, as the Centre of Excellence for land operations, remains relevant to the Canadian Armed Forces joint team, our allies, and Canadians and continues to deliver excellence in all of its mandates.”.
Of particular interest during LGen. Lanthier’s address was a stirring in the parade ranks behind him as two of the Foot Guards fell prey to the sun. They were quickly assessed and moved off parade by attending medical staff without LGen. Lanthier missing a beat, probably because he was unaware of it as his back was to the entire situation.
Following the parade, LGen. Lanthier held a media scrum by the War of 1812 Monument on Parliament Hill. When asked about challenges in the job he replied, “ … the environment is always changing. We gotta be scalable, we gotta be agile … we need to understand better information operations … we’ve got to evolve all of this.”. When asked about extra troops being deployed to Latvia he mentioned that “ … concurrency of operations is critical so we are evolving the Canadian Armed Forces. … a complete review of what we need. We’re going to be growing starting next year – we’re going to grow by over 3500 regular force – a portion of that will come to the army. The same thing with the reserve. They’re going to be growing all the way to 30,000 troops…”.
And so now the Canadian Army is under new leadership with multiple deployments to eastern Europe, deployments to Africa, and increased participation in the United Nations and NATO to be tackled by the new guy. We can only wish him good luck.