Editor’s Note: This article is in response to the recent eVeritas article about the Alouettes practice time at CMR and Mike Kennedy’s response (below). It is the first of a series of articles that will follow in coming editions.
Article by 10970 Karmin McKay
After his career in football ended, Pete Dalla Riva went to work for Molson Breweries in Montreal in a public relations capacity. I remember meeting him just over 30 years ago, in late 1990, at the annual reception Molson’s used to host for cadets and Ex-Cadets in the region. He talked about the team’s experience training at CMR at the time he had been with the Alouettes. I also remember him saying that how important it was for the players and the coach to respect each other, in order to have a successful team. That comment has always stayed with me, and it reminds me of the importance that mutual respect and confidence play in having a successful team in any environment.
This subject is near and dear to my heart. I really only understood it after I started receiving my old age pension. How putting into practice this knowledge could have helped me avoid political minefields while I served. I always started out respecting another soldier’s rank from Trooper to General. My mistake was not respecting the rank (especially for those I reported to) when I lost my respect for that person. This behaviour started at RMC in third and fourth year (my squadron commander) and was reinforced by the same feelings towards him with my partner in crime who lived 2 doors away in Fort Champlain. The squadron commander returned the compliments but not until my final assessment as I graduated. My assessment that year was the worst one I have ever seen in more than 20 years afterwards and it was about me. I never expected to see him again. Good riddance I thought as I marched off the square on 1 June 1976.
In my fourth phase of training, I did the exact opposite and received one of the best assessments of the 62 candidates that started the course (only 28 passed). I was asked if I wanted a posting to Germany and accepted. Long story short, I was occupying a defensive position with my tanks in Bavaria in mid September and got the drop on several enemy (German) vehicles. The umpire arrived to assess the results. To quote Gomer Pyle, ”Surprise, surprise, surprise”. It was my last squadron commander from RMC. It was priceless. We both recognized each other at the same time and stated “What the bleep are you doing here”? I was now a Lieutenant, and he was a Captain. No big difference. We later both served together in Army Headquarters and became friends. By then I respected him and his rank just as he respected me.
I had similar issues with my second Squadron Commander in Germany. More about him in another article. But so did all the other Regimental officers because he was the classic example of the Peter Principal and certainly had been promoted beyond his ability to function.
It should be no surprise that this trend continued. My final story is about an officer that I first met as a LCol, later as a BGen and the last time as a civilian when he asked to work as a consultant for me and my company. I was working in NDHQ as a high tech Project Director (UAVs, radar, thermal imagery night vision etc.). Not bad for an artsman. I had worked hand in hand with the Major General in charge of the whole Department and the two previous to him. I was able to speak directly to both without going through the chain of command and did so often. He arrived to become the new Department second in command. He forbid me to talk to the MGen without briefing him and getting his permission first. I said “yes sir” stood to attention and left his office. I then proceeded to ignore his direct order. I knew (believed) that he was a moron and would never understand the technology nor benefits behind my verbal briefs and reasons for fast action (Gulf War 1 as an example). While many staff officers in large HQs act like a chicken in a cage (cubicle), I was more like a free range chicken. A great deal of my NDHQ time was spent in Europe, Latin America, courses and Army bases, just to get out of my cubicle in NDHQ. I believed in the importance of my work and just how much it could help our soldiers going into war zones. Damn the red tape and useless time delays, full speed ahead.
A few days later, my LCol told me that the BGen wanted to see me NOW and what did I do to make him so mad? I stated I do not know. The BGen had me stand to attention and stated “Did I not tell you not to talk to the MGen unless I said you could?” I stated “Yes sir”. “Why did you speak with him then?” he ranted and it was a rant. My answer was ”Sir, MGen A walked onto the same elevator I was on and he asked me a question. I had to answer him so gave him a concise accurate answer to that question and the others he asked me. He asked me if I was going to the mess for lunch, and that he wanted to have lunch with me. I said yes and the conversations continued over lunch Sir”. He huffed and puffed and ordered me not to do speak with the MGen again.
Now for the rest of the facts:
- I had worked hand in hand with the MGen when he was the Operations BGen in Army HQ and I was his SO3 operations officer (Capt). I spoke directly to him skipping the chain of command almost daily and on occasion directly to the LGen (Commander of the Army). I had also worked directly for the LGen before when he commanded 4 CMBG in Germany and I was his Liaison Officer. When challenged by my chain of command, my answer was one of two most often ”The General told me to do” it or “you do not have the need to know said the General”. Both of the Generals knew me and trusted my judgement.
- I knew the MGen I wanted to speak to went to the Army Mess for lunch when he could.
- That I had been standing beside the elevator doors waiting for him to go to the Mess for 20 minutes and only pressed the down button when he arrived.
I retired from the military and entered the world of weapon simulators. The BGen was retiring, saw me in the Mess and asked if he could become my company’s Canadian consultant. I now regret my answer of “you are not good enough”. That was rude and not called for. He later became a Federal Cabinet Minister.
Lessons to consider
- Respect the rank, even if you do not respect the person.
- Consider the risk before you disobey a direct order even if you are doing it for the right reasons.
- I got away with disobeying direct orders many times because of the manner and reasons for which I did it including not getting caught (more on this topic later).
- One may win the skirmish regarding the disobedience but lose the battle months or weeks later during assessment time.
- Officers’ superior to me normally wrote two types of assessments about me. I was a water walker or worth keeping in the military but barely average. I worked for several officers that I respected in a row in demanding jobs and got promoted to Major from Captain. Had I reported to another that I did not respect, forget promotion and the great jobs that I had afterwards.
- I had one glitch and that was at Army Staff College. One LCol and I did not get along and he really worked to lower my assessment. It is a good thing that the Army Staff College BGen had been my skiing partner for the year we were on French Course.
- Junior officers (Capt and Lt) have the ability to end your career as an OCdt. I was lucky my last RMC squad boss did not fail me and prevent my graduation.
- The same OCdt that you treated badly may soon one day be your peer and or superior. If you are that Capt, you could be working one day for one of your OCdt trainees. I remember everyone of my course officers. Some were good, others were not so good. As a peer, I treated them that way. An RMC bud reminded me that he did this exact thing to another officer. A Captain that had treated him badly just because he could when my bud was an OCdt had the favour returned when the Capt. made a mistake on a career course and the now Lt. did not correct him when he could have.
- If you have not broken the code yet, many of the officers that you work with and for at RMC, and during your first operational posting after you graduate will continue to help and mentor you or haunt you for the rest of your career and perhaps afterwards. (more on this topic later).
- You will work with ex-cadets that remember you from RMC. I worked with my rook flight CSC when he commanded 1 Signals Regt and then with the next 1 Signal Regt CO. He had been assigned to monitor and guide me when I was in first year and he was in second year. (More on this later).
- You must respect their rank.
- Keep in contact with potential mentors and try to avoid those that will cause trouble for you. More on these topics later.