Sgt Bill McLeod
17 Wing Photojournalist
17 WING WINNIPEG, Man. – Orange parachutes bloomed in the skies overhead south Winnipeg on the afternoon of 9 June as two Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs) from 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron (Sqn) based at 17 Wing, floated down from a CC-130 Hercules to perfect landings in front of more than 200 screaming students at the River Heights Community Centre.
The SAR Techs, Sergeant Randy McOrmond and Master Corporal Eric Beaudoin, carried-out the simulated rescue as the culmination of a year -long learning initiative conceived by Mr. Dave Leochko, a Grade 6 teacher at Ecole Robert H. Smith School in River Heights, and mentored by Warrant Officer (WO) Darcy St-Laurent, a SAR Tech currently working as an instructor at the Canadian Forces School of Survival and Aeromedical Training (CFSSAT) located at 17 Wing.
“We wanted to help people appreciate what the Canadian Forces do,” said Mr. Loechko following the jump. “Our whole community now has a better idea about what the Forces do,” he added.
WO St-Laurent is the first CF member and the first Manitoban to have walked to the North Pole starting from a point of land. As a result of the expedition and his multiple decorations for rescues, the Para Rescue Association of Canada named WO St-Laurent the SAR Tech of the Year in 2010. Mr. Leochko became interested in WO St-Laurent after reading about the Canadian Forces (CF) member’s expedition to the North Pole.
Conversations between the two men led to WO St-Laurent visiting the school at least 5 times during the course of the school year to make presentations to the students. He also kept in touch with them through letters and e-mails which allowed Mr. Leochko to use the opportunity to direct his students to learn about subjects as wide ranging as the Arctic, SAR Techs, jobs in the CF, and the role of the CF in Canadian Society. The Grade 6 Class also visited 17 Wing where they saw first hand the diverse operations the Wing and 435 Sqn conduct daily.
At an Open House held at Ecole Robert H. Smith School the week after the jump, the students proudly displayed learning projects they had worked on throughout the year. Some of the projects topics ranged from jobs of the CF to paper mache dioramas of SAR Techs on rescue operations to charts of the command structure of the CF, and even comic books about WO St-Laurent.
When asked about his project, student Tristan Belbas said, “I learned a lot this year. I learned there were a lot more jobs than I thought, like cook and musician.”
Mr Leochko was so inspired as a result of his involvement with WO St-Laurent and the CF, that he felt it necessary to make his observations known to the public.
In a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press he wrote, “People who are drawn to the Forces have a commitment to serve. It is part of their nature which draws them to this occupation. They realize the importance of education and how education can serve as one of the biggest tools in fighting conflicts. It is part of their spirit to help others with such passion and commitment. Heroes can inspire lives. This year my students met many heroes, those that have saved lives, those that have served others, and those that have inspired them to lead lives with integrity, commitment and passion.”
For more information on what it takes to become a Search and Rescue Technician, please visit: http://www.forces.ca/en/job/searchandrescuetechnician-11
For more information about 17 Wing please visit