To the officers, NCMs, Brothers and Sisters of the CME, as you know by now my days are short as I will retire next week. I have been humbled by the good wishes sent for my family and I, and for that I will always be grateful.
Thirty-five years, where has the time gone? It really doesn't seem that long ago that I was getting off the boat in Cornwallis ready for basic training, until I see some pictures, then I realize it was a long time ago!
I would like to take a moment to thank Capt Landry and Kevin Patterson for organizing a great send off last week and for all the kind words of the presenters.
When I sat down to reflect on my thirty-five years in our Army I couldn't help but smile with satisfaction. Granted it wasn't always peaches and cream but anyone who has worn a uniform can attest to that.
The military has allowed me to go to fascinating places, do amazing things and meet all sorts of interesting people.
What has been the most satisfying? the people. The only times that I felt conscious of the significance of being in the Army had to be when meeting and interacting with people in other countries, especially knowing that my words and actions were directly influencing peoples’ opinions of Canada.
So, what comes to mind when I think back over my career? The people!
I must mention a few and what they taught me. CWO Ron Bruce taught me to be firm but most importantly be fair to all. MWO Chris Keeping, always strive to do your best, CWO Gerry Collins, always be willing to help anyone and pass on your knowledge, and CWO Gerry Dorfschmidt, always put the Sapper first.
The last two years as the CME Branch CWO have certainly been a highlight of my career. CWO Kevin Patterson had done much in the chair and my goal was to try and further the accomplishments he had made. Traveling with the Col Comdt, Gen Irwin has been a real joy. We are very fortunate to have someone as committed to the Branch as Gen Irwin. He remains your biggest ally and advocate within the Branch.
To the CME officers my final advice to you is simple... lead! Don't be afraid to make the tough decisions, you'll always be judged more harshly for your inaction rather than your action. You're the face and voice of your respective commands whether it be a Troop or a Division. Troops demand a competent and confident leader and they deserve one as well! "Be that kind of leader"
To my brothers and sisters, the Sgts and WOs of the Branch, carry on the legacy that is uniquely ours. Be the expert of your respective fields and never stop learning, then turn right around and teach what you've learned. Train your Troops not only how to be good soldiers but to be a good man, woman, mother, father, friend- in other words shape their character the way the Sgts and WOs before us have shaped ours. Help each other, make them responsible and hold them accountable. Wear your rank with pride but also with humility.
Every NCM at one point wants to be the RSM and I'm sure there are many officers that wish they could be the RSM for a day or two as well. "Be the Leader they want to be”
To the Sappers at large, be proud to serve in our Branch. Know that what you do is important no matter how mundane or boring it may seem at times.
"The Sappers really need no tribute from me; their reward lies in the glory of their achievement. The more science intervenes in warfare, the more will be the need for engineers in field armies; in the late war, there were never enough Sappers at any time. Their special tasks involved the upkeep and repair of communications; roads, bridges, railways, canals, mine sweeping. The Sappers rose to great heights in World War II and their contribution to victory was beyond all calculations."
- Field Marshal Montgomery 1945
Your time will come, learn your trade, listen and learn from your Snr NCOs and develop your own leadership style.
My favourite leadership principle "learn from experience and those who have experience".
"Take on the Challenge"
There are only two types of people you will meet in this world...that's right just two. Those that know more than you and those that know less than you.
Your duty is to learn from those that know more and to teach those that know less.
Your challenge however is to figure out who is who and recognize that sometimes they are one in the same.
I wish you all the very best in the years to come!
CWO (Ret'd very soon) Ron Swift