From flash to bang
Ex-RMC cadet influences operations in Afghanistan
A/SLt 24498 Noelani Shore (RMC 2009)
‘Beware of the Christmas tree cadet,’
20111 Major Sebastien Cote (CMR RMC 1996) graduated from the college during a tumultuous time of change.
In his fourth year, the military college in St. Jean closed, as well as Royal Roads on the West Coast. Many traditions were coming together at the Royal Military College in Kingston, and it was a challenging learning experience for all.
“The integration didn’t go as smoothly [as hoped by some] There were some language barriers for sure. Each college wanted to bring their own tradition, and they didn’t really mix well with the RMC aspect,” explained Maj Cote. “RR was deeply engrained into the military, while CMR was more of a global college, and RMC was very much an academic military college. Lot’s of the extra curricular activities from St. Jean didn’t mesh well with the ideas of RMC, and the people from RR didn’t think RMC was military enough. So it was an interesting time.”
For Maj Cote, transferring to RMC meant there were fewer opportunities to bond with his fellow students.
“CMR was better on a social network than RMC. Students knew each other a bit better. There were more occasions for mingling. I don’t mean there were more parties, but there were more extra curricular activities where students would participate. That’s what was missing at RMC in my time, that time for students to bond,” said Maj Cote.
Born in Alma, Quebec, Maj Cote was drawn to the military because of a desire to work with aircraft. He graduated as an Aerospace Engineer with a degree in Space Science.
“Being able to go to university and having it all under the ROTP program was really an attraction. And once you get there and get involved in the sports, the camaraderie really made it worth while,” he said.
Even though Maj Cote looked forward to joining the military, the first few weeks, like all cadets discover, took some getting used to.
“The arrival at CMR, when we first got on the college grounds, was pretty overwhelming. They tell you ‘alright – off the bus, find your PT gear, let’s go for a run’. First you figure out what PT gear is, and then you have to decide if you really want to go for a run. Being yelled at was a big shocker,” explained Maj Cote.
Once he got over the initial shock of school in a military environment, he began an impressive athletic career at CMR, as he played on the varsity soccer, broomball, and volleyball teams. He was busy and very involved, and “it reflected in my grades,” said Maj Cote. “So in Kingston, I only played on the varsity soccer team, and the broomball club.”
Maj Cote continued playing soccer with the International Military Sports Council (CISM) until recently.
“I was involved in CISM soccer until this summer when my work schedule decided that it was not conducive to do both. But that’s a decision that you have to make at one point,” said Maj Cote. “You need a lot of time to play at that level, and it’s also important to maintain a level of fitness that’s much higher than what is required by the military.”
Maj Cote enjoyed the time he had to play with CISM Soccer, and he represented Canada and the Canadian Forces in Brazil during America’s Cup.
“An experience that stands out the most was the America’s Cup. Even though it’s very competitive, you develop great friendships with the other countries. I had the chance to go to Brazil, and that was just spectacular in itself. To really play soccer where – not where soccer was born – but where soccer is considered a religion. I didn’t get the chance to play the World Championships because of work, but the America’s Cup was by far the most fun,” Maj Cote said.
While playing in the America’s Cup stands out in Maj Cote’s mind, another grand moment for him was graduating from RMC.
“Leaving the college was very memorable. It’s a done deal, it’s time to move on to something bigger and better, and leave five years behind. It was good,” said Maj Cote.
He moved on to 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Valcartier for six months, and he learned a lot from the first posting.
“The first posting always stands out the most. Senior officers always remind you that the first posting is the one you remember the most. I think the first one was where I matured, where I realized that I wasn’t a student anymore,” said Maj Cote. “Going from a fourth-year officer cadet, to having approx 100 subordinates, from a private to the Master Warrant Officer really changes your focus, and makes you mature, makes you grow up mighty fast as a person, as well as professional. That’s when you realize you really don’t know much, and you need to constantly learn.”
As time went on, Maj Cote had many good experiences, and he enjoyed the opportunity to have different postings. Some of them stood out more than others, but he learned from each one.
“Working to deploy F18s overseas was a real eye opener of what we do,” he said. “When we sign on the dotted line, there’s more than just paper work. There are real people going into harm’s way.”
He is currently posted to Kingston at 1 Wing Tactical Helicopter Squadron Headquarters, in charge of A4 Maintenance. It is here the culmination of Maj Cote’s experience led to the proudest moment in his career so far. “The proudest moment for me is what our section of the HQ did for Afghanistan. I had the chance to play a major role in sending the CH-146 Griffon and the CH-147 Chinook into Afghanistan. That’s superb. I don’t think many people will understand the extent of what we accomplished until they experience it. I call it from 0 to 100 – from flash to bang. In such a small amount of time, we were able to influence a conflict a lot, and we took our troops out of harm’s way and allowed soldiers to do their jobs without the fear of IEDs,” said Maj Cote. “I’m very proud of the work that my section accomplished. So when I look back in 20-25 years on what we did, there’s a part of history that says ‘Canada was involved in the war against terror in Afghanistan’, and I’ll say – ‘I played a role’. It’s good to know that we do work that actually leads to something.”
Maj Cote has been influenced by many great leaders in his career, and one man in particular stands out in his mind.
“When I was in St. Jean, General Dextraze, former Chief of Defence Staff, passed away, and he left many sayings. One of them that relates directly to the college, is ‘Beware of the Christmas tree cadet,’ [meaning] the one that has both of his sleeves covered in insignias might only be there to collect insignias, without learning. I’ve remembered that quotation throughout my whole career,” said Maj Cote.