‘As soon as you put a uniform on, you’re a leader’

News Article / March 30, 2017

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From The Aurora

Recognizing the excellence of Canadian Armed Forces’ personnel is easy; backing them up with organizational excellence is leadership’s top priority.

That’s the view of Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West, the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer. He paid a visit to 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, on March 2, 2017, hosting several meetings with non-commissioned members at all ranks.

“Top priority – it’s you,” he told the most junior personnel at the wing during a town hall. “You are the non-commissioned membership corps of the future. Who in this room is going to be standing here giving this spiel 20 years from now? What do we need to do so as to prepare you for the future?”

Chief Warrant Officer West acknowledged the demanding work of the Royal Canadian Air Force, saying, “Ops tempo is high, and that’s the reality of the world now. This is normal, and we won’t stay this way long – we’ll ramp up again.

“The world is an unstable place at this time, and it is difficult for anyone to know, including the leadership, when, why, or from where the next challenge will come. In the meantime, leadership is focusing its attention internally: How will we recruit the future airmen and airwomen sailors, and soldiers, and Special Forces operators? How will they be trained and educated? How and when will we provide them the experience they need?

“We’re now working on institutional excellence – all the pieces that enable you to do your job: pay, housing, pension, policy. That’s all critical. If we don’t have the back end—the support that makes the mission happen—we fail.

“Some of the policies we have were written in the 1970s,” he acknowledged. “That’s not the way we train and fight today.

“The Canadian Armed Forces is working on developing processes and policies that will meet the needs of today and those of the future. Ensuring you receive your pension cheque without delay, streamline our moving process. We are even looking at our employment model, we need to create flexibility and to a certain point customization for our members career’s. Everything is all on the table, and we must review and adjust how we manage our number one asset: people.

“We need to take risks, we need to do what’s right,” he continued, “and we can control this. We can’t blame someone else. We have a lot of work to do, and we can’t stop moving.”

The idea of treating individuals within a uniformed organization as people or family members, from the day they walk into a recruiting centre until the day they die, Chief Warrant Officer West said, requires the organization to transition and evolve in the same manner we ask our members to.

“When you first join, we tell you when to eat, where to stand – we socialize you through a whole career; then, at the end, we take your ID card and say, ‘Thank you very much’. There is a lot of work to be done here, and we need to treat people in the same way throughout their service, with respect.

“Why are we, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, different than the rest of society?” he asked. “Because every day you go to work and stand for what is on your left shoulder: the Canadian flag. That makes us different—not better—but different. And that puts pressures on every one of you and your families.”

Living up to the standard of being a member of “the profession of arms” puts high demands military personnel, he said. “If you wear the uniform, respect it. That means ethical behaviour. There are people pulling at the threads of that flag and your uniform that we all wear so proudly every day, and we can’t afford to have people doing stupid stuff and mistreating other people.

“I want you to do your job and do it well, and remember: as soon as you put a uniform on, you’re a leader.”

The Aurora is 14 Wing Greenwood’s base newspaper.

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