Mentorship of 405 Squadron ‘family’ changes hands

News Article / December 11, 2018

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By Sara White

Honorary Colonel Bert Campbell thanked his wife on November 27, 2018, saying: “One of the most important people in my life… for all she’s done for me.”

“Forty-nine years of blue shirts is horrible!” his wife, Winnifred, interrupted from the audience.

“Well, there you go,” Honorary Colonel Campbell said, joking that perhaps he’ll go join the Commissionaires.

He had come to the end of a career with the Royal Canadian Air Force, and was turning over his most recent and last rank as honorary colonel of 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia’s 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron to incoming Heather Hemming. He retired as a major in 2003, served another period as a reservist and, at full retirement, was appointed honorary colonel in 2011. His initial three-year term was twice extended.

“405 is the best there is—it’s history,” he said. “It’s been an awesome six years working with the ‘Pathfinders’.”

He highlighted experiences attending a reunion of Pathfinders in the United Kingdom, helping present medals to Second World War Pathfinder veterans; visiting troops in Kuwait over Christmas; presenting glider wings to Royal Canadian Air Cadets; and simply spending time with the squadron at Friday morning briefings.

405 Squadron commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Luc Vachon thanked Honorary Colonel Campbell, saying he “excelled at all the diverse roles of an honorary colonel. Bert was always present—squadron events, family days, presentations; for a time, I thought he was the unit commanding officer: he was in every single picture! Outstanding dedication. Forty-nine years in the uniform is a feat unable to be achieved these days.”

“When Tony [Honorary Colonel Kelly’s brother and assistant] and I came here, Bert and 404 Squadron’s Honorary Colonel Eric Wood took us under their wings. Thank you for friendship, kindness, candour and not letting the ‘blind thing’ get in the way of having fun!” said 14 Wing’s Honorary Colonel Kelly, who is a blind. “There’s camaraderie in sports teams, with schoolmates, and in bands.”

He also advised Honorary Colonel Hemming on what she’s becoming a part of. “You’re going to discover this is all about family, friendship, sister- and brotherhood. You’re an educator. I have had in my life some of the most wonderful teachers who gave me tools and gifts; I’ve had people like you in my life. You know, as a teacher, there is nothing more beautiful than someone saying ‘thank you,’ then passing on that gift and lesson to someone else; you’re going to see that at 405 Squadron,” he said.

Honorary Colonel Hemming grew up in the Annapolis Valley, spending her childhood posted at Greenwood with her military father. She became a teacher, earned masters and doctorate degrees, and eventually became the first vice-president academic at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, in 2016. One of her projects includes leading teaching training and development for six counties in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, focused on literacy. A number of her family members made contributions during the First and Second World Wars.

“For my dad, who died in April, seeing this appointment for me would have been full circle,” she said. “He brought a young family to Greenwood, we had a fine education at the base schools and enjoyed all the base activities—and then for me to assume this role? Thank you.”

She added that her teaching career has focused on personal development, leadership and excellence—something she already sees as common between her academic environment and 405 Squadron. “They’re both really about encouraging young people—everyone—to move out of their comfort zone.

“I see we’re both involved in mentoring, teaching and training. There is a focus on the whole person—mental and physical well-being; on diversity and the wider community. I look forward to getting to know members of the squadron, and gaining a deeper understanding of your work.”

Sara White is managing editor of the 14 Wing’s base newspaper, “The Aurora” where this article was originally published.


 

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