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22 Wing/CFB North Bay welcomes honorary colonels

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With a stroke of a pen, North Bay police chief Scott Tod joined the 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base honorary colonel program.

He now has a military uniform back on.

"I served in the Royal Canadian Navy for two years back in the early ‘80s. To wear the uniform again is incredible,” Tod said.

“It really is (a) great honour and heartfelt privilege to be invited in.”

He joins the program as North Bay Mayor Peter Chirico said his farewells to the program after enlisting in August 2020.

"Our men and women of our Armed Forces contribute so much to our community,” Chirico said.

The base has three honorary colonels who act as advisers to unit commanders, advocate for the military men and women on base and their families, while supporting activities and operations both on base and in the community.

New officers have been appointed as part of the 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base honorary colonel program. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

New officers have been appointed as part of the 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base honorary colonel program. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

Jake Lacourse’s term is up as the honorary colonel of the 51 Squadron. He will always remember helping with Armed Forces Day celebrations.

“We, the community, and we, the military, are one and if we can keep that message strong and make sure folks are integrated and feel accepted, then we’ve succeeded as honorary colonels,” Lacourse said.

Honorary colonels play a key role in connecting the Canadian Armed Forces to the city, businesses, industries and labour.

The base chooses who it wants to don the uniform for the three-year term.

"There’s a pretty significant selection process that goes into that and the request goes all the way to the minister of national defence,” said 22 Wing/CFB Commander Col. Richard Jolette.

“That’s the approval authority for all the initial nominations.”

Tradition since 1857

The Canadian tradition of honouring regional or local dignitaries with an honorary rank goes back to 1857, although it was 1895 before the first honorary colonel was appointed.

In the Royal Canadian Air Force, the first appointees in 1931 were four big names in Canadian military aviation: Group Captain J. S. Scott, Group Captain R. K. Mulock, Wing Commander W. A. Bishop, and Squadron Leader D. R. MacLaren.

The practise of naming honorary appointees as general members of the RCAF continued through to 1959, when J.A.D. McCurdy, the first person to make a powered flight in Canada, was honoured in Feb. 1959 on the 50th anniversary of the flight of the Silver Dart.

More than 225 Canadians have served in the Royal Canadian Air Force through the Honorary Colonel program since 1970. There are some 70 appointments throughout the RCAF at any one time.

"It’s such an honour. It’s truly a humbling and special experience so far,” said incoming 51 Squadron Honorary Colonel Tracie Marsh.

“Jake approached me. I couldn’t get over – well, why me? Jake felt there was a really good fit.”

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Jolette said he is excited to get to work with the new honorary colonels, saying the link between the city and the Canadian Air Defence Sector has never been stronger.

"We are the human link between the RCAF, the USAF (United States Air Force) and the community,” said Tod.

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