By Richard Lawrence
It’s often said that when it rains, the army goes out and plays in it – the air force goes to the mess. And such was the case on the morning of 4th May, 2018, with overcast skies and forecasts with rain and 90 kph winds, when the RCAF moved its change of command ceremony from the rear parking area of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum inside the Museum itself. It was somehow fitting to have LGen. Mike Hood relinquish command of the RCAF to LGen. Al Meinzinger among the aviation history of Canada and the command elite of the Air Force. Special to the day were the Guard of Honour who had come in from 8 Wing in Trenton, which LGen Hood had commanded, and the Colour Party from 429 Squadron, the last squadron commanded by LGen Hood.
In his farewell address, LGen. Hood added some levity to the event as he got to the podium and then asked “Where’s my Aide de Camp? My speech? Where is it?”. He then paused dramatically before announcing that everything was good. Just a final gesture of humour.
In speaking of his time in command he noted the issues trying to drive through capital procurements for the air fleets, stating, “When we look at the big files of policy and acquisition …. I lament, not as commander of the air force, but as a Canadian, that we’re unable to come to positions when you’re going to have acquisitions that last six or seven governments. We certainly have to have a stronger vision and cooperation to get to a point where we're going to be able to deliver the tools the men and women of not only the air force but all of the armed forces need. …. It’s not happening fast enough.”
He also took the time to thank his family for their support and everyone who worked with him and for him, especially his staff who, “ … are fiercely loyal to the institution of the Royal Canadian Air Force “
After the signing of the transfer of command documents the CDS took the podium to address the assemblage. In saying farewell, Gen. Vance noted that LGen Hood had worked “ … for two fantastic CDSs [pause] … that’s not true. I worked for two fantastic CDSs. Mike, you work for a fantastic CDS. Al, the jury’s still out as to whether or not you work for a fantastic CDS but the CDS you work for thinks the world of you.”
Gen. Vance reflected on LGen. Hood’s time in command, specifically recalling discussions about the various air fleet replacements, “ … there were some challenging moments. Your advice to me was sound and clear and you did it exactly as you ought to have – ferocious advice delivered in private and honest execution delivered in public. You also, Mike, at every moment, offered a great sense of humour and the occasional fine scotch as we worked through some of the challenges.”
To incoming Commander, Al Meinzinger, he noted, “… when you darken my door at seven o’clock in the evening with something to say, it’s usually not a good thing. And you are one who is able to deliver challenging and important and difficult news with a plan to deal with it and you always do it with such optimism, with honesty, and integrity. You’re one of those people, Al, when you say it, it’s true. And that’s a good thing to be when you’re going to command the RCAF.”
Incoming Commander, LGen. Meinzinger, briefly went over some of his career history and thanked those who helped him get to this position, especially his family. But he also mentioned the abilities of those in the RCAF and their reputation on the world stage. “Our ability to deliver air power effects in an integrated manner with precision, agility, and professionalism is our true calling card. And I am immensely proud of what the credible members of the RCAF and their families do each and every day for Canadians. As your new Commander I intend to maintain our sterling reputation for delivering operational excellence at home and abroad – the true hallmark of who we are.’
With remarks concluded, the official party was marched off, the colours departed, and the parade was dismissed for the reception and press.
For more photos go to: http://www.richardlawrencephotography.ca/rlpgalleries/2018/rcafcoc/