Our people: Major Matthew Dukowski heads up Air Detachment (Atlantic) for Operation Laser

News Article / April 23, 2020

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Air Task Force LASER Public Affairs

“When things get bad, people look to us,” says Major Matthew Dukowski. “It’s what the military does.”

Major Matthew Dukowski is the Air Detachment (Atlantic) Commander for Operation Laser, the Canadian Armed Forces’ response to the novel coronavirus global pandemic.

He’s located at 12 Wing in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, and is in charge of a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter detachment there. A CH-149 Cormorant detachment from 14 Wing Greenwood and 9 Wing Gander also falls under his command. As part of the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LASER, his detachment is one of six located across Canada that are identified as being ready to respond to potential Government of Canada requests for assistance.

In anticipation of such requests, 12 Wing has converted the CH-148 Cyclone configuration from anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to utility. In the utility configuration, the helicopter can carry up to 22 passengers in addition to aircrew, an increase from up to six in ASW. And that’s not the only change.

“We are trying to keep up as much as we can with physical distancing,” Major Dukowski says about working with government COVID-19 guidelines. “The two pilots in the cockpit are close, but we have regulations in place for the rest of the aircraft.”

In addition, the squadrons at 12 Wing have implemented increased cleaning procedures, and a rotating schedule for the detachments to reduce contact with other people. “Basically, if you don’t have to go to work, don’t go.”

Before joining the Canadian Armed Forces, Major Dukowski attended Massachusetts’ Boston University on a rowing scholarship. Even before graduating in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science, he knew he wanted to be a military pilot. “9/11 happened when I was in the U.S., and a lot of my friends were signing up,” he says. “I had three profs who were former military pilots, and I really identified with them.

“When I first started, I wanted to fly fixed wing, but then I thought helos would be more interesting.”

Once at “helo school”, he chose Maritime Helicopter. “I knew I’d get to deploy and do my job,” he says about the CH-124 Sea King, often considered the work horse of the Royal Canadian Air Force. “I wanted to fly the Sea King, but I was also looking ahead to a time when I would fly the Cyclone.”

After earning his wings in 2009 on the Bell 412 helicopter, he was posted that same year to 12 Wing’s 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron [423 (MH) Sqn]. During his time there, he served on Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown during Operation Mobile and on HMCS St. John’s for Operations Caribbe and Nanook.

In 2014, Major Dukowski was posted to the Helicopter Operational Test and Evaluation Facility, where he was one of the initial cadre of aircrew trained on the new CH-148 Cyclone.

In 2017, he returned to 423 (MH) Sqn, and in 2019 he was the Helicopter Air Detachment Commander on HMCS Toronto during a six-month deployment on Operation Reassurance. “Being the Det Commander on the Toronto was the pinnacle of my career so far,” he says. “I had worked my way up as a co-pilot on the Sea King and then on the Cyclone. When this deployment happened, I was comfortable with the aircraft and I had a great team supporting me. It was an ideal opportunity for me to take command of a det, and it was a very successful deployment.”

Since he returned to 12 Wing last summer, Major Dukowski has been the 423 (MH) Sqn Deputy Commanding Officer. With the Op Reassurance deployment six months behind him, he was settling into a regular routine between work and being at home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with his wife and three young daughters.

Now, in his new role as Op LASER ATF Air Detachment (Atlantic) Commander, his schedule has changed again. But he says he is ready for the next challenge. “Normally, we operate the Cyclone off of a ship, so this operation will be different,” he says, adding that he and his team will figure it out if they are asked to help Canadians. “This is why we are here. It’s our job.”

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